Updated: 8 p.m., April 13, 2016By Gabriel Roxas


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NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – U.S. health officials said Wednesday that there is no longer a doubt that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects.

Both Plano’s health director and Collin County’s health director point out that Zika is different from West Nile virus in that the mosquitos that carry Zika are day-biters, and everyone will need to be more vigilant now especially as we head into mosquito season.

Experts had previously been cautious about making a definitive link, despite a surge of babies born in Brazil with a rare birth defect during a Zika outbreak. The virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, and no mosquito-borne virus before had ever been known to cause birth defects.

But on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there is enough evidence now to declare the Zika virus as the cause of a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain abnormalities. Microcephaly is a condition that leaves babies with shrunken heads due to the brain not developing properly during pregnancy.

The CDC also announced that they are launching additional studies to learn more about the damaging effects of the Zika virus on the brains of children born to infected mothers, warning that Wednesday’s news could be just the tip of the iceberg.

CDC officials added that their advice for pregnant women has not changed. Pregnant women should avoid traveling to places where the Zika virus is spreading, mostly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Multiple cases of the Zika virus have already been reported in the DFW region. The insects that could carry the virus are here and, by May or June, many more are expected to be around. Local health officials are warning everyone to be vigilant and take preventative steps now.

“Make sure that you’re protecting yourself when you go outside,” said Plano health director Rachel Patterson. “Make sure that you’re using repellant, long-sleeves, that you’re emptying any standing water that’s around your home, your residence, anywhere in the community that you see it.”

Dallas County health officials said that asymptomatic pregnant women who have recently traveled to a location where the Zika virus is active should request a test from their doctor.

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