With mosquito season underway, public health officials are monitoring the spread of the Zika virus. North Carolina officials say the threat of the mosquito-borne virus is low here this year.
There are two mosquito species that carry Zika, according to state public health entomologist Michael Doyle.
“One's the primary driver of Zika, and we have a few to none of them here in North Carolina,” Doyle said. “Couldn't find any last year, doesn't mean there's none, but they're certainly not widespread. The second species -- we have large numbers, but it's been rarely implicated with Zika transmission so far.”
Zika causes mild symptoms in most patients, but severe birth defects in babies of women who are infected while pregnant. Doyle said travel to an affected country - either by a woman or her partner - is the biggest risk.
State health officials also expect the threat of the Zika virus to be lower in North Carolina than it was last year because cases are down in other countries where it was more prevalent in 2016.
“The amount of Zika since last season has been declining significantly in all of the places where people travel to, in the Caribbean, South America, Central America,” Doyle said. “There are a few countries where it's increasing now, but on the whole, the majority of those countries are seeing fewer and fewer cases.”
The risk of birth defects is highest for pregnant women infected in their first trimester. And a male partner can carry Zika for several months before transmitting it.
All 98 reported cases of Zika in North Carolina to date have been associated with travel outside the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains maps of Zika-affected areas on its website.