Charlotte Experts Discuss Zika Virus, Possible Impact in U.S.

On Monday, the World Health Organization plans to hold an emergency meeting to decide whether or not the mosquito-borne Zika virus is "an international health emergency."

The main concern is that the illness, which is transmitted through infected mosquitoes biting humans, has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems in babies.

Dr. Katie Passaretti, Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Carolinas Health Care System, said, “This isn’t an infection that’s spread just from me to you while being in the room, but a mosquito bites one person, and then once it’s in the mosquito population, obviously it’s a concern that we could have spread here.” 

There have been some cases in the United States, but all have been from people who have traveled to the infected areas, including Central and South America, where Zika is spreading quickly.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel to those areas where the Zika virus is prevalent.

Ursula Douglas is the Program Manager for Nurse Family Partnership in Charlotte. The organization works with low-income pregnant women. Douglas said, “We definitely want women to be aware of the risks. We definitely want them to be having conversations with their obstetrician or their primary care providers-women who are thinking about becoming pregnant, and women who are pregnant.”

There is no vaccine or medicine to treat the Zika virus, so the best prevention is for travelers to the infected countries to use mosquito repellant, wear long sleeves, and take other steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Symptoms of the virus include fevers, rash, and joint pains.