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Local health officials: Pregnant women don't need to worry about Zika yet

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U.S. health officials say there's no longer any doubt that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects.  Experts had been cautious about making a definitive link.  But today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there's enough evidence now to declare Zika the cause of a birth defect called Microcephaly and other brain abnormalities.

 Local health officials say they've heard people ask if now is the right time to start or grow a family.  People are worried about the Zika virus, including women already pregnant.

Health officials have good news, for now.

It's another busy day at work for Kayla McCullough.  Come June 27th, her schedule will become even more demanding.  She's having a baby girl.  But among all the pure feelings of joy and happiness that come along with expecting, there's some unknown.

"You can do everything to prevent mosquito bites, but obviously, they're so tiny," says McCullough.

And in some parts of the world, including Mexico, those tiny mosquitoes have been spreading a big, growing problem:  The Zika virus.

McCullough asks, "If there was one that was carrying the Zika virus, how would I prevent that mosquito from reaching me?"

Will be it be safe to spend some time outside at night during the summer?  What type of mosquito repellent would be strong enough yet safe for pregnant women?  Should pregnant women worry if they end up getting bitten by a mosquito?

Jasper County Health Director Tony Moehr says take a deep breath.

"At this point, there's not a huge concern that a mosquito bite is going to spread that (Zika virus)," says Moehr.

The CDC, so far, reports no one in the continental U.S. getting Zika from a local mosquito bite.  It's a different story elsewhere in the world.  So the CDC says if you make international travel plans, then find out you're pregnant, cancel the trip.  Simple as that, no matter how not simple it may actually be.

The two species of mosquitoes known to carry the virus are in the Joplin area.

Mosquitoes can carry other viruses, so health officials say McCullough and others should take the usual precautions.  If you're pregnant, talk with your doctor about which mosquito repellent is safe.

But don't stop there.  We're talking mosquitoes, but summer hasn't even started yet.

"At this point, the Zika virus doesn't seem to be a major transfer issue in this area.  However, that can change over time," says Moehr.

 Keep up with the news.

"I'm aware of it," says McCullough.

McCullough is hoping she delivers her baby right now time, just in case Zika turns aggressive in this country.

But it wasn't like she was looking forward to staying pregnant in the summer, anyway.

Health officials say if you're pregnant, it's important to stay in this country during your entire pregnancy.  Doctors don't yet know if there's a pregnancy stage when the baby would be "safe" from Zika.  As of now, there is no Zika vaccine.

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