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Zika virus testing now underway in Central Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Mosquitoes in Virginia are now being tested for Zika virus. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the Department of General Services’ Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) is testing in "targeted areas" in both central and southeast Virginia.

Spread by mosquitoes, Zika virus poses a particular threat to pregnant woman and their unborn children, state health officials said.

"Never before have we had a mosquito bite that is known to cause a birth defect," Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine said.

There have been 38 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Virginia so far.

"All Virginia Zika virus infections have been associated with travel abroad, but we are ramping up efforts in preparation for locally transmitted cases where a mosquito bites an infected person and then bites someone else," Governor McAuliffe said. "Early detection of the virus in local mosquitoes allows health officials to pinpoint our efforts to prevent the spread to others in the community."

Collection kits were shipped out last week to trap mosquitoes for Zika virus testing.

"This testing provides important information to Virginia public health officials as they take the necessary measures to prevent illness in our citizens and the unborn," DCLS Director Dr. Denise Toney said. "Our scientists can test up to 300 pools of mosquitoes per week, but if a public health threat is identified we can deploy an automated system that can process more than double that number per week to more quickly identify impacted areas."

Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. Both types of mosquitoes are found in Virginia during mosquito season (May 1 through October 31).

"The virus also can be spread during sexual intercourse with a male partner or from mother to her unborn child, which could cause birth defects," the state advised. "There is no vaccine for the virus, so health officials encourage individuals to avoid mosquito bites."

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