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CDC Issues New Warning On Potential Impact Of Zika Virus

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Centers for Disease Control released new information Tuesday showing the impact of the Zika virus last year -- offering advice on what to do before the insects start biting this year.

The new report summarizes the number of Zika related infections last year in all U.S. states and territories with the exception of Puerto Rico, which has a separate registry due to its large number of cases.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports, mosquitoes are the focus of prevention and control efforts in municipalities across the country -- especially in South Florida and along the southern border, where the aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary carrier of the Zika virus, is found.

But completely eradicating mosquitoes is impossible, and the vast majority of Zika cases in the U.S. were in women who had traveled to tropical countries with known Zika outbreaks.

According to the CDC, that travel led to approximately 1,300 infections across 44 states -- including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut -- in pregnant women. In those suspected cases, there were more than 40 birth defects. In laboratory confirmed cases of Zika, one in ten women had a baby with a birth defect.

It's those birth defects that has the acting director of the CDC especially concerned.

"It can cause brain deformities, vision problems, and other defects that may require lifelong care," Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters. "The problems are not always evident at birth."

SOUND OFF: Fears and precautions in the Tri-State area?

The most obvious and concerning birth defect is Microcephaly -- the failure of the brain to develop, which can run the cost of caring for the severely disabled child to as much as $10 million over a lifetime.

As a result, the CDC is working to educate women and families about prevention, advising pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika areas and to practice safe sex if the male partner has been to those areas because the virus can be sexually transmitted.

The greatest risk for birth defects is if a woman is infected during her first trimester of pregnancy. Even without an obvious birth defect, Zika can cause brain malformations and lifelong neurological issues, so the CDC recommends possible Zika babies to get brain scans to look for those issues.

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