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Johns Hopkins Opens New 'Zika Center'

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus continues to grow here in the U.S., doctors in Baltimore are searching for ways to protect expectant moms and their babies.

WJZ's Devin Bartolotta learned more on how a team of Johns Hopkins doctors are combining their expertise to fight the virus, which can cause birth defects.

Recognizing the threat Zika poses, doctors at Johns Hopkins have created a one-stop-shop for testing, diagnosis and treatment.

"Anything that starts affecting our children...the panic level skyrockets" says Johns Hopkins obstetrician Dr. Jeanne Sheffield.

The brand new "Zika Center" consists of a team of Hopkins medical experts, who have come together to provide head-to-toe Zika care all under one roof.

"We now have a one stop shop where they can come in, get evaluated. says Sheffield, "if they meet the criteria for testing, they can come in and get that done."

According to the centers for disease control, 77 cases of Zika have been confirmed in Maryland, an up from 48 cases this time last month.

Nationwide, about 25,000 people have contracted the disease from travelling. Only 29 cases have come from the U.S. so far, many of which are in Miami, where crews are working daily.

"We will continue to be in the area trapping for mosquitoes and doing inspections" says Chalmers Vazquez of Miami-Dade Mosquito Control.

Since locally transmitted cases were confirmed in Florida, more moms-to-be have been calling Johns Hopkins to get tested.

Tests have already revealed some cases in pregnant Maryland women, Dr. Sheffield says it's most likely just the beginning.

"As more local cases occur, we're going to start getting increased numbers coming into the center" says Sheffield.

Physicians in Baltimore are giving out kits with insect repellent, home mosquito control, and condoms to prevent sexual transmission.

Just yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control awarded nearly $7 million dollars to 11 national health partners to help with public awareness campaigns and Zika surveillance.

While there may be nearly 80 confirmed cases of Zika in Maryland, Dr. Sheffield says 80 percent of those infected don't show symptoms, so there are many cases that go unreported.

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