Health & Family

North Carolina has no cases of Zika virus, but health officials warn travelers to understand risk

Brazil health officials discuss the outbreak of the Zika virus at a press conference on Feb. 2.
Brazil health officials discuss the outbreak of the Zika virus at a press conference on Feb. 2. Getty Images

No cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus infection have been reported in North Carolina, but state health officials are urging residents to be aware of the risk before traveling to Central America, South America or the Caribbean.

The state health director, Dr. Randall Williams, especially asked pregnant women to take note of the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory to postpone travel to areas with active virus transmission if possible.

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus an international emergency, clearing the way to mobilize funds for research and escalate efforts to fight the virus, which is exploding in Latin America. WHO officials said the rapid spread of the disease since May is due to a lack of immunity among the population and the prevalence of the particular mosquito that carries it – and also carries yellow and dengue fevers.

State health officials said only one in five people infected with the virus will show symptoms, such as rash, red eyes and, less commonly, fever, joint pains and muscle aches. But a pregnant woman can pass the virus to her unborn baby. A serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported.

The mosquito that carries Zika virus is not believed to be widespread in North Carolina, and the virus may be less likely to spread so quickly in the United States because of better mosquito control measures and lower population density, state health officials said.

Still, they encourage residents to take steps to prevent mosquito bites. That includes wearing insect repellent as well as long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time outdoors. It also means removing standing water, where mosquitoes breed.

For more information: http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/zika.html.

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