WICHITA FALLS, TX - The Zika virus has been confirmed in 22 countries. The mosquito borne illness is suspected to be linked to severe birth defects.
There has been multiple cases reported in the United States including Texas, and one of these cases is as close as Harris County.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus is believed to be linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that alters the brain development of unborn babies.
"They're starting to see disturbing relationship between the zika virus and microcephaly in those infants born to mothers who are infected with a virus," said Lou Kreidler, Director of Health at the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District.
Dr. Anila Ricks-Cord, OBGYN at the Women's Clinic in Wichita Falls, said it can be deadly to a babies' brain growth.
"Your cranium expands in order to accommodate the growth of your brain and these babies have neuro-developmental anomalies essentially," said Dr. Ricks-Cord.
She adds pregnant women need to take precautions.
"It is transmissible through all stages of pregnancy," said Dr. Ricks-Cord.
Symptoms include rash, fever and joint pain, although the virus can be asymptomatic.
As of now people are bringing the virus back to America from being affected in other countries, but health officials said it is not a matter of if but when mosquitoes in the United States will contract the disease.
"We have the aedes aegyptia, the type of mosquito that carries this virus," said Kreidler.
Mosquitoes carrying the virus can spread to other mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites a person who is already infected with Zika, it will also contract the virus.
You can protect yourself by wearing long sleeves, using mosquito repellent and keeping standing water around your house drained.
This is especially necessary for people traveling to countries where the virus is confirmed.
Health officials ask women who are pregnant to try and postpone trips to these areas and educate themselves in order to protect their health and their babies.