Minnesota health officials say risk of Zika virus is very low

- The Center of Disease Control (CDC) confirmed Wednesday that the Zika virus is causing babies to be born with small heads and other severe brain defects. But officials in Minnesota are reiterating that the risk in Minnesota is low.

There's been some confusion about whether the mosquitos carrying the disease could ever end up in Minnesota. Based on a map put out by the CDC earlier this week, part of Minnesota is in the danger zone. But a few different local officials say the map is misleading.

As most parents know, preparing for a baby can bring a lot of worry and questions. Christy Rasmussen is due to have her baby girl next week and says the Zika virus adds one more concern to the list.

“Will the mosquitoes with that type of virus come all the way up here? Or is it in not a concern people need to have?”

The short answer from the Minnesota Department of Health is no, at least it’s highly unlikely.

“If we maintain the two mosquitos that transmit the virus, the risk to Minnesotans is very low,” David Neitzel, Minnesota Department of Health, said.

There are 51 species of mosquitos in Minnesota. Of the two types carrying the Zika virus, one commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito was detected in Minnesota most recently last year.

David Neitzel was on the team that first found it back in 1991; it's resurfaced a total of 16 times since then.

“To a lot of people a mosquito is a mosquito, but we have all these different types,” Neitzel said. “And the ones that transit Zika virus are just not established here.”

Kirk Johnson with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control Agency points out that the mosquitos causing the most concerns can only get to Minnesota through transporting tires. And even then when those eggs hatch, the species carrying Zika can only survive within a 100 to 200-yard radius.

“Folks in the southern United States should be concerned for their own health,” Johnson said. “It’s likely we will see some Zika transmissions in southern states. Whether that's a handful of cases or a thousand remains to be seen.”

For now, pregnant women are repeatedly being told to use mosquito repellent, cover up, avoid travel to Zika-stricken regions, and use protection for sex if a partner has recently traveled to those areas.

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