WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some experts predict mosquitoes bearing the Zika virus could hit the Tri-State Area this summer, and some cities have put a strong focus on control measures.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the northern suburbs in particular are taking action. Upscale suburbanites in Westchester County collected free fathead minnows at the White Plains Airport to help keep the disease-carrying mosquitoes under control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can lead to birth defects, is on the march this year.
“I just wanted to come here and talk to people to make sure that I was doing as much as I could have in this situation,” said Jeff Levine of Bedford. He added that he is worried about Zika.
The fish that were being given away at the airport are voracious eaters. They feed on mosquito larvae in fresh water — killing the bugs before they can fly and bite people.
But with Zika in the mix this year, is it enough?
“We’re densely populated; we’re an urban area. We rely on the county health department and the county resources just for things like this, and it doesn’t sound like it’s adequate, quite frankly,” said Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla.
Pilla thinks the Westchester County mosquito program is too passive.
There are no plans to spray for mosquitoes, and Pilla is worried about places like Hen Island – just offshore in nearby Rye. Hen Island has summer homes with rainwater catch basins – the kind of standing water mosquitoes love.
Activists said the Zika-bearing mosquito species has visited the area before.
“Asian Tiger mosquitoes — 2013, 2014,” said environmental activist Ray Tartaglione. He said in Westchester County, Hen Island will be ground zero if Zika mosquitoes arrive.
The county said it has inspected Hen Island, and believes residents are taking precautions. To make sure, though, they are placing mosquito traps later this month.
“We’re looking specifically for Asian tiger mosquitoes, and we’re going to take the mosquitoes and we send them to Alban,” said Assistant Westchester County Health Commissioner Peter DeLucia.
He said the county will not do any spraying.
“You’re not going to be able to spray your way out of the problem,” he said. “A lot of times, you’ll see places will do spraying as a nuisance measure.”
Westchester County is betting the farm on larvicide programs, but also has doubled the number of mosquito monitoring traps this year from 10 to 20 for a county of 450 square miles.
There are currently two cases of the Zika virus in Westchester County, both involving people who contracted it out of the area. Zika can be transmitted from person to person by sexual contact, and from people to mosquitoes who then bring it to other humans.