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Area doctors talking about Zika precautions with pregnant patients and their partners

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A report this week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed two mosquito species that carry the Zika virus could reach Kansas City. That has area doctors talking about precautions with pregnant patients and their partners.

Candice Prothe, a nurse at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, has seen an unwanted warm weather visitor around her rural Paola home.

"I've already noticed the mosquitoes are out. Not a whole lot, but I've noticed them," said Prothe.

She noticed because she's pregnant. She knows there's at least a possibility that mosquitoes in our area could transmit Zika. The virus is strongly linked to miscarriage and birth defects including microcephaly, a small head size.

Mosquito season is our area is typically late April through September. Dr. Rabiya Sulemon is telling pregnant patients and their partners to take precautions.

"It's important for men and women to take precautions because not only can it be transmitted by a mosquito bite, but it can also be transmitted sexually," said Dr. Sulemon, an ob/gyn at Overland Park Regional.

Precautions include wearing insect repellent containing DEET when you're outdoors and wearing long-sleeved clothing, long pants and socks.

"The mosquitoes that are vectors for the virus are daytime biters so avoiding being outside during the daylight hours or when they're active," she added.

The ob/gyn said she is not advising couples to delay pregnancy until after mosquito season.

"Just because we have not had any active transmissions in our area. However, that may change in the summertime," said Dr. Sulemon.

Prothe is due in June before the peak of mosquito season, so she says she doesn't have the concerns that other women due later may have. But she wonders how Zika, if it would arrive here, might affect future pregnancies.

"If the Zika virus is sticking around and we still don't have vaccines or anything to prevent it, it does worry you," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control advises pregnant women not to travel to countries where Zika is spreading now, and people who've possibly been exposed from recent travel or sexual contact should wait eight weeks before trying to get pregnant.