With the first case of Zika virus hitting close to home, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic) has introduced legislation to help New Jersey ready itself against the encroaching disease.
The bill (A-3969) would require the Department of Health (DOH) to develop a Zika Virus State Action Plan to reduce the impact of infection from the virus on residents of New Jersey.
In early June, it was reported that a family visiting New Jersey gave birth to the first baby born in state with Zika-related microcephaly, a neurological disorder that often causes babies to have abnormally small brains and heads. The World Health Organization has warned that the Zika virus is exploding and a new vaccine is at least 36 months away.
“Summer is now officially upon us and neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania have already developed action plans,” said Schaer. “Earlier this month, we saw the first baby born in New Jersey with Zika-related microcephaly, the results of which can have a devastating, lifelong impact on both a child and their family. The time to act is now before it’s too late and we’re left scrambling if the virus continues to spread northward.”
At a minimum, the plan must:
– Identify protocols for limiting the spread of the Zika virus which would include, but not be limited to, emptying standing water in target areas where mosquitoes breed;
– Provide for the trapping and testing of mosquitoes in an area where the virus is suspected to have been transmitted;
– Include an eradication plan to target an area that has been affected by the transmission of the virus; and
– Provide for upgrading or increasing the Public Health Laboratory Services in DOH, as necessary, to be able to obtain prompt results following testing for the virus.
DOH would coordinate implementation of the plan with other state and local entities, and take such other action as the Commissioner of Health deems necessary to reduce the impact of Zika virus in New Jersey.
The legislation has been referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.