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MTA, New York health officials take aim at Zika transmission in subways


MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast (left), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) and New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker (right) place larvicide in an area of standing water at the Whitehall Street station in Manhattan.
: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York state health officials are implementing measures to prevent the transmission of the Zika virus in New York City's subways, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.

In cooperation with the MTA, the New York State Department of Health is deploying larvicide tablets in standing water inside the subway system to decrease the prevalence of potential breeding grounds for the albopictus mosquito, which is present in the state.

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Aedes albopictus is active in southeastern New York.

The mosquitoes lay eggs in or near water, and their offspring remain in the water before emerging as adults that fly and bite.

MTA and New York State health officials will target 36 priority locations to eliminate standing water in subways by increasing drainage and deploying larvicide as needed, according to a press release issued by Cuomo's office.

"With 6 million daily subway customers, the MTA takes public health concerns just as seriously as our operational safety," said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Prendergast.

About 13 million gallons of water enter the subway system daily through precipitation, groundwater intrusion and water used to clean platforms, Prendergast noted.

As a result, the serious threat of the Zika virus "makes it even more important to have clean, functioning drains, and adequate pump equipment, aggressive inspection and pumping schedules to remove standing water," said Prendergast.

Health officials also will place traps to monitor the mosquito population and test and report the presence of the albopictus mosquito throughout the system.

To date, 537 confirmed cases of the Zika virus have been reported in New York. The vast majority of the cases were travel-related. Of confirmed cases, 414 were in New York City.