With reports of the Zika virus reaching North Carolina, the Centers for Disease Control has granted $560,000 to the state for research and prevention measures.
CDC said in a press release Tuesday that it hopes to better understand the virus’ effect on fetal development and how to rapidly detect if a newborn has been affected.
The money will also help families seek medical attention.
“It is critical to identify infants affected by Zika so we can support them and their families,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said.
The virus can lead to birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition where the head does not develop to its full size.
The money is given based on the presence of the Zika virus within an area. The first report of Zika in North Carolina came in February. All the North Carolina cases are connected to travel.
The virus is typically spread through bites from the Aedes species of mosquitoes, but it can also be spread by infected men and women to their sex partners.
This summer, Mecklenburg health officials have hired extra employees to help with mosquito control.
They are responding to citizen complaints about standing water and surveying more than 1,300 sites that have been identified as having significant mosquito breeding activity.
If mosquito larvae are present, the water is being treated with a larvicide to kill them before they hatch. Residents are asked to turn over buckets, flower pots, bird baths and other containers with standing water.
“We’re not just sitting around waiting for something to happen,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the county health director.
So far, Plescia said no Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been detected in Mecklenburg. And until Zika was recently detected in Florida, “the common thinking" was that "it’s pretty unlikely that we would see it in North Carolina” this year.
"Having it in Florida increases our concerns," he said."I don't think it's going to turn up here in a week. But I am concerned that we may see it in the not too distant future."
Many people infected with the virus have no symptoms. There is no vaccine.
The CDC encourages everyone to take measures to prevent mosquito bites.
Staff writer Karen Garloch contributed.
Tyler Fleming: 704-358-5355, @tyler_fleming96