HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island health officials are reaching out to local colleges to help educate students on Zika virus dangers ahead of spring break.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner James Tomarken reached out to local institutions in a letter, urging schools to warn students on Zika precautions and preventative measures if their are planning to travel during their spring break holiday, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

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According to Dr. Tomarken, college students need to realize that it is still unknown how long the virus could last in someone’s system — making it easier for the virus to be passed along to others.


“And so it spreads by the mosquito itself and then it spreads by individuals who’ve sexually contracted the virus — they can spread it and in this case, sexually,” Dr. Tomarken said.

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Dr. Tomarken advises an abundance of caution should be taken by both men and women of childbearing age to avoid being infected by the virus.

“You don’t have to go necessarily to a Zika-infected area because this is an evolving situation,” Dr. Tomarken said. 

According to the CDC, all cases of the Zika virus currently reported in New York State were contracted outside of the region, with no recorded local transmissions of the disease to date.

The Zika virus is the suspected cause of babies in Brazil and other countries being born with abnormally small heads. The virus has also been reported in Mexico, the Caribbean, tropical Asia and parts of southeast Africa

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant not to travel to Zika-affected areas.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this year that pregnant women in New York who have recently traveled to countries impacted by the Zika virus can get free tests for the infection. Nassau University Medical Center, of Long Island, has also opened up a Zika testing clinic for surrounding residents.