CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Officials with the Mecklenburg County Health Department are warning pregnant women and families who may become pregnant to avoid traveling to Central and South America this summer as the Zika virus remains a serious health concern.
The warning, which also includes the Caribbean Islands, is alerting people to the birth defect microcephaly.
"This is an abnormal development that caused the head of the baby to be smaller than normal," said Mecklenburg County Medical Director Dr. Stephen Keener. "Obviously results in neurological problems, and in some cases premature death of the baby."
The Health Department says in the U.S. only extreme southern parts of Florida and Texas have seen the particular mosquito known to carry Zika. All of the local cases here in the Carolinas were due to people having traveled to Zika "hotspots."
Keener says there's a small chance the Zika-carrying mosquitoes could migrate north. His team will closely track mosqitoes around the Charlotte area for any sign that is happening. Keener says it is more likely that Georgia and South Carolina would start to see it before North Carolina does, if ever.
Residents are strongly encouraged to wear repellent as often as possible, wear long sleves, and pants to keep mosquitoes away.
Homeowners are also advised to "tip & toss" standing water around the yard. It only takes a tiny amount of standing water for mosquitos to grow. Common places for standing water include: potted plant bases, buckets, tarps, tires, children's toys, and pet dishes.
To learn more about the efforts to fight the Zika virus, click here.