Important Information about the Zika Virus for Travelers
Traveling abroad is a popular activity for many Americans. Regardless of whether this travel is for business or pleasure, or for a religious or medical aid mission, being fully aware of the environment you will be entering is important. A vital part of this preparation is knowing what types of diseases are present at your destination and knowing how to ensure you are protected during your travel.
Some of the most popular destinations for travelers include South America, the Caribbean, and Central America. Regardless of whether you plan to visit the Mexican ruins or an exotic beach in Puerto Rico, you are, at some point, going to encounter mosquitoes.
While a few bites may not seem like a big deal, the problem is, there is now a virus that is present in this region which is spread by mosquitoes, and can cause a number of serious health problems, especially for pregnant women.
What is the Zika Virus?
This is a virus that is spread through mosquito bites that typically has minimal flu-like symptoms or may even be completely free of any symptoms. Outbreaks have previously been recorded in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The Zika virus has now gained a foothold in Brazil and is moving northward, infecting both mosquitoes and humans in more than 20 South, Central and North American countries.
Currently, there is no vaccine that will prevent Zika and there is no medicine to cure the infection once it starts. The best way to safeguard yourself from this disease is to prevent mosquito bites and avoid areas where the disease is known to be present.
Symptoms of the Zika Virus
Zika is considered a relatively mild and self-limiting disease, although there are a few possible serious complications. Approximately 20 percent of those who are infected with the virus will actually become sick with a flu-like illness. If symptoms do occur, they are typically mild and will last for a period of a few days to a week. Some of the notable symptoms of Zika include a headache, muscle pain, pink eye, joint pain, rash, and fever. Becoming seriously ill or dying from this virus is extremely rare.
Preventing Zika Virus
There is no vaccine or cure for Zika. The very best way to avoid this disease is by preventing it. Some prevention tips include:
- Sleep in or stay in air-conditioned or screened rooms.
- Wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible so as to minimized exposed skin.
- Wear clothing that have been treated with permethrin, an insect repellent.
- Use an insect repellent on all exposed skin that contains DEET, picaridin or OLE.
The Effect of the Zika Virus on a Pregnancy
According to research, the Zika virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. It is thought that the virus can cause microcephaly (abnormally small head and brain) and potentially other congenital health complications.
If a woman is pregnant or is planning a pregnancy in the near future, she should avoid or postpone her travel to the area where Zika is present until after the baby is born. If travel is unavoidable, then it is important she speaks with her doctor prior to leaving.
The professionals at The Travel and Immunization Clinic of Kansas City can offer you more information about the Zika virus and steps you can take to prevent it, including obtaining the most effective insect repellents and proper instructions on how to use them.