RALEIGH (WTVD) --North Carolina health officials are working to stay ahead of the Zika virus as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting more than 200 pregnant women in the U.S. are now infected with the disease.
North Carolina Public Health Director Danny Staley said Friday his team at the Department of Health and Human Services is ramping up its surveillance of mosquitoes. NCDHHS partners with local health departments as well as NC State Univ., East Carolina Univ., and Western Carolina to keep track of the insects.
MORE: CLICK HERE FOR ZIKA TIPS FROM THE CDC
"We've actually been ramping up a lot of our surveillance," said Staley. "We've already been collecting larvae and eggs and we're rolling those out to identify them and to actually know how many different species we have and where they are at."
Right now, there are 15 Zika cases in North Carolina, none of which were contracted locally.
"If we're going to have local transmission of this virus, we would expect to see that in a more a tropical area," Staley said referring to areas such as Florida or Texas.
The CDC reports 234 pregnant women in the U.S. are now infected with Zika. The virus is known to cause birth defects including microcephaly, a rare condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and possibly underdeveloped brain.
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Staley said those cases are either travel-related or due to sexual transmission.
"We don't have local transmission in the United States," he said. "And there are things that we can do to protect us when we travel and also around our homes."
Here are some simple ways to protect yourself from mosquito bites this summer:
- Cover exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Use EPA-registered insect repellent that contains DEET
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window screens to keep mosquitoes outside
The CDC warns pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas experiencing a Zika outbreak. Staley adds, those traveling, and wanting to become pregnant, should delay pregnancy for 6-8 weeks after returning to the U.S.
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