RALEIGH – At Monday’s meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Tuesday, officials at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said that there have been no reported cases of the Zika virus infection in the state.
The Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Outbreaks of the virus have been reported in Brazil and 22 other countries and territories, which include in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
“Suspected cases of Zika are now required to be reported,” Dr. Randall Williams, state health director, said in a statement. “Our State Laboratory for Public Health is currently coordinating testing of Zika virus with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has a history of rapidly implementing testing for emerging threats.”
The relationship between the Zika virus infection and birth defects has not been scientifically proven, but is suspected, according to the WHO. In Brazil, there is an increase of babies born with abnormally small heads or in some cases Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pregnant women postpone travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
“Pregnant women are urged to take note of the recent CDC travel recommendations advising that travel to areas with active virus transmission be postponed if possible,” Williams stated.
Although mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are not believed to be widespread in North Carolina, officials recommend wearing insect repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants and making sure window and door screens are in place as a precaution.