Preparations underway in Mecklenburg County to prevent Zika

by: Gina Esposito Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mecklenburg County is already talking about ways to prevent the spread of mosquitoes this summer. Last year, almost every state in the U.S., including the Carolinas, reported travel-related cases, and millions of dollars were pouring into tackling the problem.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for pregnancy risk.

Within the past two week, Mecklenburg County updated its recommendations.

Stephanie Vanderlugt was pregnant last year around the time Zika was at its peak.

"I wasn't really concerned, but definitely vigilant," she said.

(Click PLAY to learn more about the dramatic rise in N.C. Zika cases)

Even though Zika has not been in Charlotte, researchers aren't weighing out the risk. In January, University of North Carolina-Charlotte professor Daniel Janies said his team is trying to put all the pieces together.

He said there are two epidemics now that could bring the virus back to the U.S. this summer.

"This summer some of the things we will be watching is where those mosquitoes are that can carry the virus, the Southeast and pockets in the west too in California," Janies said.

Mecklenburg County is helping fund the Urban Mosquito Project started by UNCC doctoral student Ari Whiteman.

He plans to lay down 100 traps throughout the county to help identify hot spots of mosquito activity.

"What are the drivers of risk for mosquito-borne diseases in Urban Areas, especially in Charlotte?" Whiteman said.

Mecklenburg County said they are aware of 1,000 areas that are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Officials plan to hire 14 environmental assistants to help with spraying this summer. This is something they do every year.

Whiteman said with the growing population in Charlotte and its international airport, there is a lot they can learn this summer about the Zika epidemic.

"It's also rapidly growing so you are getting this consistence influx of new blood from people and that's how you spread a virus," Whiteman said.

He needs that man power in order to monitor all those traps, which they expect to lay out throughout the county in mid-June.

He is asking for volunteers who want to help with this project.

[CLICK HERE if you'd like to volunteer]

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