Local doctor says Zika in U.S. is just a matter of time

Local doctor says Zika in U.S. is just a matter of time

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The World Health Organization on Monday declared the Zika virus a public health emergency.

"I think all over town we're seeing people show up either at their primary care doctor or urgent care centers or other providers, worried that they may have it," said MHM Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich.

Cvitanovich said despite an increasing number of people worried about getting the virus, most who actually contract the infection won't get sick.

"I think only 20 percent of them get sick. A majority of them have mild symptoms," Cvitanovich said.

No one in the U.S. has contracted Zika here. The mosquito-borne virus is most common in Brazil and French Polynesia, where a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads has been noted - a condition called microcephaly.

"It's hard to predict, but many of them have developmental brain delay," said LSU Health Infectious Diseases Dr. Fred Lopez.

Lopez said that while pregnant women are being urged not to go to affected countries, he doesn't think it'll be long before someone contracts Zika virus in the U.S.

"This mosquito is here in this part of the country, particularly along the Gulf South coast," Lopez said.

Other than the threat to pregnant women, symptoms of the virus are minimal, and include headache, fever and joint pain.

Cvitanovich said despite an increase in cases, the public shouldn't panic.

"Here in our community, if we want to worry about viruses, the two that I would recommend we worry about right now is our flu virus and West Nile virus, because those are the two we're seeing people here get," Cvitanovich said.

If doctors discover people are being infected with Zika virus in the U.S., they say the best line of defense is to limit exposure to mosquitoes.

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