Zika Virus a big concern for people with family in Dominican Republic

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A popular pediatrician in Harlem is trying to spread the word to his patients to take precautions against the Zika Virus, especially while travelling.

"Big danger to young woman, it can cause harm to pregnancy," said Dr. Juan Tapia-Mendoza, a pediatrician.

Many of his patients will be travelling back to the Dominican Republic for the summer, which is why he is spreading the word on the Zika Virus.

"No treatment, no vaccine, the best weapon is education for people travelling," Dr. Tapia-Mendoza said.

"I'm really freaked out. I'm going to be careful when I go to the Dominican Republic now," said Daralid Almont, 17 years old.

Almont is going to the Dominican Republic next month and says she is grateful for her doctor's care.

The doctor explains how the symptoms are mild and easy to miss but the consequences to pregnant women are severe. Babies can be born with very small heads and lifelong disabilities.

He is also very clear about how it's spread: either through mosquito bites or unprotected sex. Infected males and pass the virus to their female partner.

"If you must travel, use repellent. If sexually active, use barrier method protection," Dr. Tapia Mendoza said.

In New York City alone, the Health Department reports there are 109 cases of Zika Virus so far, 17 of them women who are pregnant. All of them were infected while travelling abroad.

"This worries me a lot, especially for my community. Every day you learn something new and I am very worried," said Ramona Ramos, a mother.

Ramos is travelling there next month. To add to her concerns, these particular mosquitoes don't just bite at night; they attack during the day as well.

While the doctor can't stop his patients from visiting family, he can teach them about how Zika is spread and how best to avoid getting sick.
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