RALEIGH (WTVD) --A new map has identified the North Carolina coast as a potential hot zone for Zika.
Two Asheville firms that developed the map suggest environmental conditions are ripe for the mosquito that carries the virus to breed, bite, and transmit Zika.
"What we're saying here is be aware and prepare," said Marjorie McGuirk, President of Case Consultants International.
The map also includes a portion of the northern central part of the state.
THE MAP WILL BE UPDATED WEEKLY HERE.
McGuirk said it is unlikely mosquitoes carrying Zika will show up in North Carolina anytime soon, but the possibility of someone infected with the virus traveling here is high.
"North Carolina is a prime tourist area, particularly along the coast. If someone were to be in a Zika zone where Zika is actually active, transmitting the virus, and then were to travel to an area where the environmental conditions were favorable for Zika, that would change the map," she said.
So far, 1,658 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S. Fifteen cases have been transmitted locally in Miami.
"I am positive that there's going to be more cases," said Dr. Brunilda Lugo.
Lugo has been studying the virus for two years and says a vaccine available to the public is likely still a couple years away.
Wednesday, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) announced the launch of the first phase 1 clinical trial on a vaccine that researchers hope will prevent infections with Zika.
North Carolina is taking precautions to control the mosquito population.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has awarded the state $1 million in grants to help research and fight against the virus.
There have been 25 cases of Zika reported in North Carolina. All of them have been connected to travel. Health officials are urging North Carolinians to protect themselves and pay attention to warnings.
"The CDC is on top of this, and it doesn't mean you can't go to Miami. It means you have to take the precautions," said Lugo.
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