Despite Warning, Pregnant New Yorkers Continue To Travel To Zika-Affected Areas, Health Department Data Show

More than 2,000 pregnant women who have traveled to Zika-affected areas have been tested – 41 are positive for Zika virus

Daily number of pregnant women tested for Zika is increasing, nearly 60 each day

Department launches new campaign reminding New Yorkers about Zika travel warning and sexual transmission

July 20, 2016 – At a meeting today with members of ethnic and community media outlets, cosponsored with City University of New York Center for Community and Ethnic Media, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett revealed new data that show a steady increase in the number of pregnant women who have traveled to Zika-affected areas and have been tested for the virus upon their return. Zika is known to cause miscarriage and serious birth defects, including microcephaly. In response, the Health Department is launching a new media campaign today that sends two clear messages to New Yorkers pregnant or trying to become pregnant, as well as their partners: Delay travel to areas where there is active transmission of the Zika virus, and use condoms or other barrier protection when having sex with a person who has recently traveled to an area with ongoing Zika transmission. A copy of the guidelines can be found at nyc.gov/health/zika. The campaign, which builds on existing “Fight Back NYC” messaging, will begin today on social media and expand to subways, print and TV in the coming weeks.

To date, physicians have requested testing for more than 2,000 pregnant women who have traveled to areas where there is active transmission of Zika. Additionally, pregnant women continue to be tested for potential sexual exposure following travel-related Zika exposure of their male partner. In the last month, the daily number of test requests has steadily increased. Last Friday alone, the City's Zika Test Call Center received 56 test requests. Of the 2,000 women who have been tested, 41 have been confirmed to have the Zika virus as of July 15, 2016.

“We are doing everything we can to protect New Yorkers from the potentially devastating consequences of Zika,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “We remain concerned about the growing number of pregnant New Yorkers who are still traveling to Zika-affected areas. We want to ensure that pregnant women have the information they need to protect their babies, and we strongly recommend that they follow the travel advice and delay travel to countries with Zika.”

“If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you should postpone travel to places where there is Zika. Family and friends will understand. If he travels, on his return, your male partner should follow our advice regarding safe sex. If he is uncertain that he can follow this advice, he should consider not traveling. The consequences of infection are far too high,” said Health Commissioner Bassett. "We want to see the number of pregnant women exposed to Zika go down, and we hope that our new campaign will convey the risk pregnant women face and how they and their partners can avoid these risks. At this pace, it is only a matter of time before we see a case of microcephaly due to Zika here in New York City.”

Cumulative number of Zika virus tests requests received through the Zika Test Call Center (ZTCC):

Zika and Pregnancy graph

The Health Department’s new social media campaign:

Zika and Pregnancy

In April, Mayor de Blasio announced a three-year, $21 million, five-borough plan to combat the Zika virus. Building on the Health Department’s robust West Nile virus mosquito control program, the Mayor’s plan expanded mosquito surveillance and control to identify and target mosquitos that could potentially transmit the Zika virus; created capacity to meet a growing need for testing pregnant New Yorkers and local mosquitos for the virus; and funded a comprehensive campaign to disseminate prevention and testing information throughout the city. The plan added 51 new positions to meet new needs – including exterminators, disease inspectors and lab analysts – and doubled the number of mosquito traps placed across the city.

To learn about what the City is doing to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in New York City, read the most recent information about the Zika virus, and access the latest data available, visit the Health Department website.

The Center for Community and Ethnic Media serves as a hub of research, training and professional support for community and ethnic publications in the New York City metropolitan region. Since these media outlets distribute their work nationally and in their home countries, the center’s impact goes far beyond the borders of the five boroughs.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Christopher Miller/Carolina Rodriguez 
(347) 396-4177, pressoffice@health.nyc.gov