NEW YORK CITY — In a further effort to prevent mosquito-born viruses like Zika and West Nile, the New York City Department of Health will spray larvicide and pesticide in areas across the city this week.
For the fifth time this year, marsh and non-residential areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx will be sprayed with larvicide from Tuesday through Thursday between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. They will also use trucks to spray a pesticide in certain areas of Queens and Staten Island Thursday evening from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Friday morning the Health Department said.
Last year, the Health Department conducted only three aerial sprayings, but decided to amp up its efforts this year.
"As part of the city’s Zika Action Plan, the Health Department built upon its West Nile infrastructure and has mounted an aggressive response to mosquito control, which includes doubling the number of larviciding events this year," NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene spokesman Christopher R. Miller said.
While the aerial sprayings will target mosquito larvae, trucks spraying pesticide will aim to kill adult mosquitoes in parts of Queens that could carry Zika and another variety in Staten Island that could carry West Nile.
Last week, a baby with Zika-related birth defects was born in New York for the first time. However, city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said Friday there have been no instances of transmission of the virus in New York and she remains optimistic there will not be any.
“While we do not expect to find Zika in New York City’s mosquitoes, we are taking no chances," Basset said. "We are moving forward with a safe but aggressive plan to spray pesticide when we find significant numbers of mosquitoes that could possibly carry Zika.”
Throughout the week, helicopters will spray VectoMax® FG pellets that contain larvae-killing bacteria, and an insect-growth regulator that will kill the mosquitoes before they can grow to maturity. Both products are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
While the product is considered safe, the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the non-profit organization Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, sent out a number of tweets this week warning pet and feral animal caretakers to bring in food and water during the sprayings.
"This is something that is not super duper toxic to humans or domestic animals but we want to take precautions," said Kathleen O’Malley, Director of Trap-Neuter-Return Education at the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. "So we’re recommending people remove bowls while the spraying is going to be going on."
On Tuesday, the Health Department updated its website to state that more West Nile virus had been detected as of July 21 in three boroughs. In The Bronx, it was found in the 10466 ZIP code; in Queens, it was found in 11101 and 11377; and in Staten Island it was detected in the 10305, 10306, 10308, 10309, 10312 and the 10314 ZIP codes. So far this season, the city has found 27 instances of West Nile in mosquito pools, according to the Health Department's website.
There have been no locally acquired mosquito-borne cases of Zika, but there have been 376 travel-associated cases diagnosed here as of July 22. Of those, four were sexually transmitted and one is an infant with Zika-related birth defects, according to the Health Department's website.