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Malloy: Connecticut Not Taking Chances With Zika, West Nile

Gov. Dannel Malloy listens to a roundtable panel on Zika preparedness at the Stamford Government Center Wednesday.
Gov. Dannel Malloy listens to a roundtable panel on Zika preparedness at the Stamford Government Center Wednesday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Even as Miami grapples with locally transmitted cases of Zika virus, Gov. Dannel Malloy said that scenario is not likely in Connecticut. But the state is still not taking any chances.

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“While it’s unlikely that we will experience local transmission of Zika virus, it is critical that we take the necessary steps to prepare if the virus does present itself that way,” Malloy said at Zika roundtable held with local officials, including Stamford Mayor David Martin, at the Stamford Government Center on Wednesday.

Malloy said the Asian tiger mosquito, which has been proven to be able to transmit Zika to humans in Asia, has been trapped in the state. But it hasn’t become an “active vector” in Connecticut as of now, he said.

“Although they are present in this portion of the state and other portions of our state, if it somehow became an actual active vector obviously we’d have some other discussions,” Malloy said.

Malloy said 61 Connecticut residents — including four pregnant women — have contracted Zika — but not from mosquitoes in Connecticut. “All of these cases are associated with travel,” he said.

The virus is usually contracted through the Aedes species mosquito. But it can also be passed from person to person through sexual contact, so a person who contracts Zika from a mosquito outside of Connecticut can pass the virus on to someone who hasn’t traveled.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis lasting several days to a week. There is no vaccine and deaths are rare, but the virus can spread from pregnant women to their fetuses, leading to birth defects and miscarriages.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly in which “a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.”

Not everyone who contracts Zika knows they have the virus. Malloy added that only one out of five people who contract the disease actually feel sick.

Due to the possibility of contracting the virus from mosquitoes in other areas, Malloy advises residents traveling to warmer climates to wear long pants, stay in air conditioning or screened in areas, sleep in mosquito netting and use EPA-regulated mosquito repellent.

In August, Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino advised pregnant women to avoid a neighborhood just north of downtown Miami where numerous cases of Zika were found.

“I encourage Connecticut women who are or plan to become pregnant and their partners to avoid this neighborhood, should they be traveling to Miami,” Pino said. “While Zika virus causes only mild symptoms in most people, it can have devastating, lifelong consequences for unborn children.”

More recently, Zika had been found in mosquitoes in Miami Beach, CNN reported.

Malloy and officials at the meeting also briefly discussed the West Nile virus. The governor called coast of Connecticut from Bridgeport to the New York border a "hotbed" of West Nile. This week, an elderly resident of Milford was diagnosed with the state's first human case of West Nile this year. The patient, who is between the ages of 70 and 79, became ill during the fourth week of August with encephalitis and remains hospitalized. 

This year, West Nile-infected mosquitoes have been trapped in Bridgeport, Darien, Hartford, Newington, Milford, Stamford, Stratford and West Hartford.

The West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Connecticut every year since 1999. 

During 2015, 10 confirmed human cases of the virus were reported in six people from Bridgeport, and one each in Fairfield, Milford, New Haven, and Shelton. Infected mosquitoes were trapped in 24 towns last year.

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