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Cuomo Announces New Plan To Target Zika Virus In New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The State of New York on Thursday unveiled a plan to combat the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to skull and brain conditions in newborns.

As CBS2's Sonia Rincon reported, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that there have been 49 cases of Zika confirmed in New York state. More are expected as mosquito season comes this spring and summer.

"Some of the speculation or the expectations are that you could have a significant number of people affected, so we want to make sure we're ahead of it," Cuomo said.

With that in mind, Cuomo and the state Health Department on Thursday announced a six step plan to fight the spread of Zika in New York state.

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said it will start with distributing larvicide tablets for standing water and encouraging people to get rid of clean water in containers where mosquitoes breed, "such as old tires, children's toys, plastic containers, and even clogged gutters -- especially after it rains."

The plan is to eliminate the virus at its source, and aggressively monitor with mosquito testing. It also provides free protection kits for pregnant women, which would include bug spray and condoms, since Zika is also sexually transmitted.

The plan would further deploy rapid response teams, require local control plans, and launch a public awareness campaign.

Mosquito traps would collect thousands of mosquitoes for testing.

There are about 70 types of mosquitoes in New York, and one of them can carry Zika. Zucker said that species makes up only 3 to 5 percent of the mosquitoes in New York state.

Zucker showed a map indicating that the presence of albopictus mosquitoes, which can carry Zika, has been confirmed in the five boroughs of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties to the north.

The department is also monitoring counties further to the north – including Sullivan, Ulster and Dutchess..

As much as the state wants to prepare for the arrival of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in New York state, the Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still advising pregnant women not to travel to countries where Zika has been prevalent.

Nearly all the Zika cases in New York state so far were found in people who had traveled to affected areas in Central and South America and parts of Asia and Africa.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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