NEW YORK (WABC) --Federal health officials are now saying that thousands of people may have contracted the Zika virus before returning to the U.S.
So far the CDC says about 500 people in the U.S. have been infected with Zika.
Even more frightening is that 80 percent actually never show symptoms, so they are unaware that they are infected.
Local hospitals are now preparing for treating pregnant women and their newborns.
With laboratory research in the Mount Sinai Health System now focusing on the Zika virus, the vast hospital complex is also prepared in the event there is a possible influx of patients testing positive for Zika.
"We do have the capability to take care of someone if they have concerns, and we can provide them with information for follow up with us or public health services that are available," said Kevin Chason, Medical Director, Emergency Management.
In addition to a health campaign in multiple languages aimed at educating people about Zika and the dangers of the virus spread by mosquitoes in some countries, the city's health department is closely working with hospitals and health providers.
"To make sure they understand the information they need to give to patients and for those patients who need to get tested, how to get them tested," said Dr. Jay Varma, the city's Deputy Commissioner of Disease Control.
They also focus on communities where residents have close ties to countries where Zika is a concern.
"They may go to smaller health care clinics so we've actually sent teams of health care workers to go to doctors offices, to go to subway stations, to go to community centers," said Dr. Varma.
WEB EXTRA: Watch a Q&A with Dr. Varma:
Important information for East Harlem resident Naida Encarnacion.
"It's good because that way we are going to be informed over everything that is going on and we are going to take care of each other and our family," she said.
Back at Mount Sinai, beyond patient testing and care, there is important research work on the virus.
"We want to be a part of that in order to help identify better diagnostics as well as the vaccine," said Dr. Judith Aberg, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases.