PITTSBURGH (CBS) — It’s the unofficial start of summer and warm temperatures this past winter have health officials concerned about the Zika virus.
There have been 179 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Pennsylvania in the past two years.
But Texas and Florida are two of the highest risk states where health experts say we could see outbreaks of the mosquito-borne virus this summer.
The Gulf Coast states, Tuscon, Arizona, and areas of southern California are also on the list.
“It’s been one of the warmest winters on record, and so what that means is the numbers of mosquitoes that transmit Zika, the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, are out in high numbers,” says Dr. Peter Hotez, of Baylor School of Medicine.
The biggest concern is for pregnant women. Experts are urging they take precautions, using insect repellant and limiting time outdoors to avoid mosquito bites.
A recent study shows local transmission of Zika began in Florida months before it was picked up. Dr. Hotez says health departments will need to detect cases sooner.
“By active surveillance, I mean actively looking for Zika virus among people with a fever and a rash who go to community health centers or emergency rooms or clinics, and actively testing them for Zika,” Dr. Hotez says.
The city of Dallas is already looking into stepping up efforts to detect Zika in residents.
“We’re talking about expanding our surveillance with doctors’ offices, having our lab do the periodic testing,” said Zac Thompson, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
Health officials are also rolling out Zika public awareness campaigns in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, scientists are working on a vaccine, but it’s still in the early stages of testing.