Wednesday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted that residents of the Empire State can now “request larvicide tablets...[and] free test[s] for pregnant women” to help combat the Zika outbreak. (The first steps in the states comprehensive “Zika action plan.”) However, what are larvicide tablets? How do larvicide tablets help fight Zika? And what other steps is New York taking to prevent the spread of Zika?
Larvicide tablets are palm-sized cakes — cakes which look sort of like powdered donuts — designed to kill young and immature mosquitoes in standing water (i.e. mosquito breeding grounds). How do they work? According to the EPA, larvicide destroys the digestive system of the mosquito larvae, which causes the insects to starve to death. In turn, the adult mosquito population is reduced, as the larvae never have the chance to mature and disperse.
This method is far from fail-proof, but since there is not yet a vaccine for Zika — and there is no cure — for now, these tablets may just be the state's best line of defense. (Because the best defense is a good offense, right?)
The good news (if one can call it that) is that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, also known as the “Zika mosquito,” isn't native to New York. However, there have been travel-related cases in the Empire state, and things may change with the onset of summer.
As to the rest of the state’s six-step “action plan,” New York will be “deploying 1,000 special traps...and testing 60,000 mosquitoes every month,” it will offer the aforementioned tests and a “protection kit” for pregnant women, and in the event of a confirmed Zika transmission (from the Aedes aegypti mosquito), New York will deploy rapid response teams to “inspect surrounding areas, perform additional treatment[s] and develop a local action plan.” The state also launched a multilingual television, radio, print, and social media campaign just last month. The public awareness campaign includes "educational posters, brochures and fact sheets about Zika...[a] Zika Information Helpline: 1-888-364-4723; and...[a] dedicated Zika Media Campaign website."
And information like this is important, as just last week a woman in New Jersey became the first to give birth to a baby with microcephaly in the Tri-State area, according to ABC7. She was the second in the United States. (The mother contracted Zika while on a trip to Honduras.)
For more information about larvicide tablets, or to review New York's entire six-step plan, visit NY.gov.