Health officials prepare for potential Zika virus case in South Carolina

Health officials prepare for potential Zika virus case in South Carolina

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - There are very few states left that don't have a confirmed case of the Zika virus, and South Carolina is one of them.

However, officials across the state are preparing for what some consider an almost inevitable outcome, that mosquitoes in the Palmetto State may soon carry the virus that has affected so many worldwide.

"While we haven't seen Zika yet here in South Carolina, our experts say there is a strong potential that we will eventually see it. We do know that neighboring states have had it," said Robert Yanity, with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

None of the cases seen across the country right now involve someone who was infected within U.S. borders. Still, health experts said just this week that the U.S. is likely to see outbreaks of the Zika virus, with dozens of people affected.

"Whenever you see something new like this come out, it is a bit scary," Yanity said.

It's scary in that health officials have said the virus's effects are farther reaching than they initially thought.

"I think everyone should be concerned to the point that they're educating themselves, doing all the preparation they can and also doing what they can to prevent mosquito bites," Yanity said.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes and through sexual contact. Health officials said its symptoms can be flu-like, but it can also give adults the paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome..

For babies in the womb, though, the effects can be devastating.

The virus has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly in countries like Brazil. This disease causes an infant's head to be significantly smaller than other children of the same age.

A global health emergency was declared earlier this year for babies born with unusually small heads, which often indicates poor brain development.

"If you're a pregnant woman, ... if you're looking to travel to one of those countries that have Zika present, you really need to consult your healthcare provider," Yanity said. "The CDC is providing guidance that pregnant women should perhaps not travel to those countries if they're looking to get pregnant, or pregnant at that time."

With mosquito season ramping up and a higher-than-normal population expected this year, DHEC is working with local governments to combat the problem before it starts.

For tips on keeping families safe, click here.

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