How States Are Working to Prevent a Zika Outbreak

CDC official said virus is worse than previously thought.

— -- State health officials across the southern U.S. are working to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease, after health officials have raised concern about higher risk in warming weather.

"We continue to be learning pretty much every day and most of what we’re learning is not reassuring," Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, said. The virus is, "linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy."

Earlier this month, the CDC held a summit to educate local state departments on prevention and treatment for the Zika virus. The agency recommends reducing the mosquito population, which spreads the virus, and monitoring the existing populations of insects to ensure they are not spreading the disease. They are also asking local health departments to reach out to pregnant women so that they are aware of the risks.

Several states, including Florida, have already begun to take action. In Florida, a state of emergency was declared in counties where people have tested positive for the Zika virus and the Florida Department of Health is already conducting surveillance of mosquitoes to monitor whether the virus is present in living insects populations.

The state also established Zika hotlines earlier this year and Governor Rick Scott has called for thousands more Zika tests so health officials can quickly identify any infected residents.

In Louisiana, the state health department is working to monitor both mosquitoes and people for the disease.

"We have signs up in airports and ports encouraging travelers to be aware of areas of active transmission and protect themselves from mosquito bites," a department spokesperson told ABC News. "We are advising pregnant women to avoid travel to active transmission areas. At home, people should also protect themselves from bites and make sure their homes are prepared by checking that screens are intact and emptying standing water, especially in small containers.

"We are working together with local mosquito abatement programs, as well as health care providers," he added. "To help them recognize the symptoms of Zika."

In the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where the virus is already spreading, health officials are giving pregnant women special mosquito protection kits. The kits contain insect repellent, vouchers for screens to put in windows and condoms, since the virus can be spread through sexual contact.

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