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Cornell Professor Says CDC, Gov is Spreading Panic Over Zika Virus

zika-virusWith all the intense media coverage surrounding the mosquito-borne Zika virus, many upstate New Yorkers are wondering when the disease will finally hit their communities.

Earlier this year President Barack Obama requested $1.8 billion to fight the spread of the disease, and right now the two houses of Congress are sparring over legislation to address the crisis. As they do, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released a new map showing the potential range of the virus, which includes much of the upstate region.

Mosquitoes and other animals often act as vectors for viruses and bacteria that cause diseases. For instance, there are more than 40 known viruses and at least 60 diseases associated with birds alone, while here in upstate New York, ticks can carry lyme disease and other illnesses.

So when will the Zika virus find its way to Rochester? Technically, it already has. In January, one Rochester resident tested positive for the virus, but only after returning from a country where the virus is rampant.

However, one upstate New York mosquito expert is accusing the CDC of dangerously exaggerating the threat of the virus. Cornell Entomologist Laura Harrington wants New Yorkers to know that the mosquitoes that transmit the virus cannot survive the region’s cold winters, which should insulate Rochester from the disease.

“People are panicking,” Harrington told Syracuse.com. “The reality is we are likely to have some mosquito transmitted Zika cases in the continental U.S. this year, but the chances we will have them in New York state are really slim.”

Part of the confusion stems from the set of maps released by the CDC. The maps show the potential range of the Asian Tiger mosquito and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can transmit the Zika virus. However, the CDC says the maps show the potential range of the mosquitoes themselves, not the likely range of the actual Zika virus.

Still, with headlines like “Zika May Be Coming To New York City” spreading all over the Internet, it’s no wonder so many people are worried about infection. For now, so long as Rochester residents avoid traveling to Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean, the chances of infection are incredibly low.