N.J. lab prepares for Zika testing of residents who visited affected areas

Acting New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett testifies at a New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee hearing in Trenton. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Acting New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett testifies at a New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee hearing in Trenton. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

With the arrival of warmer weather, it won’t be long before you start seeing mosquitoes in New Jersey. But health officials say the pests are unlikely to pose a threat of Zika virus.

Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett doesn’t expect Zika will be spread by the mosquitoes found in New Jersey.

“We don’t believe the local mosquitoes to be good conveyors of this virus,” she said. “There’s always the potential, so the department is going to continue to work with the Department of Environment Protection, the Mosquito Control Commission, as well as our county partners to ensure that we continue to keep surveillance on the mosquito population.”

The state Health Department laboratory is developing the capability to test New Jersey residents who may have been exposed to Zika while traveling to Central and South America or the Caribbean, Bennett said.

“We have a lot of folks from New Jersey that travel to one of these Zika-impacted countries, and we want to make sure that if they come back and are experiencing any symptoms or if they were pregnant and traveled to one of those countries, that they have the ability to have a test done quickly and promptly receive the results,” she said.

Most people exposed to the virus don’t develop symptoms, but it causes a flulike illness in others. Zika has been linked to abnormal head growth and brain damage in babies born to women infected while they’re pregnant.

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