FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Fears are growing across the nation as the zika virus begins to pop up.
The zika virus outbreak may seem worlds away, but local doctors said the mosquito-born illness is one to watch for. "It's a germ that's appearing in new places for the first time, and this specific organism is putting infants at risk," said Dr. Jared Rutledge, Fresno County Health Department.
Dr. Rutledge is the senior epidemiologist with the Fresno County Health Department. He said doctors have seen birth defects in babies. "Most viruses don't cross the placenta. The baby is protected. But we have found zika virus in the amniotic fluid, in the stomach fluid where the baby is suspended."
That's why pregnant women are encouraged not to visit areas where the virus is active like in South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Southeast Asia, or Africa but any traveler is susceptible to the illness. "You get joint pain, you get fever, you get pain behind the eyes, you could get a rash all over your body. Fairly generic mosquito born disease symptoms. It's in the same family as West Nile or dengue," explained Dr. Rutledge.
Dr. Rutledge said while chances are low we could see active zika locally, the valley is actually home to the mosquito that spreads it. "If we get enough travelers coming to Fresno that are positive for the zika virus, we have vector, or mosquito, here in Fresno County that could be infected when they take a blood meal and spread it to other people."
As the temperatures heat up and travel increases, that could cause an uptick in the virus.
Experts said if you've traveled recently and feel any of these symptoms to reach out to the County Health Department for testing within seven days.
Pregnant women with any questions should reach out to their physicians.
These measures they hope will keep the virus from spreading here in the valley.