Zika Virus Information
What is the current situation of Zika Virus?
The most recent information is consistently published and updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the most up to date information, visit the CDC's Zika Virus webpage. You can also find specific travel recommendations for countries with Zika risk on the Traveler's Health section of the CDC website.
What is Zika Virus?
Zika is an infection that is most commonly caused by the bites of infected mosquitos. Mosquitos that carry Zika usually live in warmer climates at an elevation below 6,500 feet. The virus may also be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person, blood transfusions, or from an infected pregnant mother to her fetus. Symptoms are considered mild and even asymptomatic in some cases. Therefore, an infected person may be capable of transmitting the virus even without having any symptoms of illness.
There is no vaccine for the virus, so it is important to take active steps in preventing mosquito bites.
If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, avoid nonessential travel to countries where Zika is active. If a pregnant mother is infected with Zika, the virus could be passed to her unborn child and also cause certain birth defects known as Microcephaly.
Which countries have Zika?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues travel notices for areas where the mosquito borne Zika virus is spreading rapidly. The list is constantly updated, so check here for the latest counries with travel notices. Currently, Zika is present in several countries in North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.
What are the symptoms?
Zika is considered to be a mild disease. It can be asymptomatic, which means that many infected people may not even know that they have the virus. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact, by a pregnant woman to here unborn child, or through blood transfusions.
Usually only one in five people infected with Zika become ill. Common symptoms may include mild fever, rash, red eyes, and muscle or joint pains. Most infected people recover within a couple of days, usually less than one week. Severe disease that requires hospitalization is uncommon and deaths caused by Zika are very rare.
Is there a treatment?
There is no specific vaccine or medicine for Zika virus. It is important to take precautious measures to prevent mosquito bites while traveling to places with Zika. If you suspect you have the virus, you should seek professional medical advice and care. The CDC recommends getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, taking medicine to relieve fever and pain (no aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). See the CDC Prevention Guide here.
How do I minimize the risks of getting Zika while traveling abroad?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has created a video demonstrating a few ideas of what to pack in order to reduce the risks of contracting Zika while traveling. Also visit the CDC website for other prevention recommendations.
What if I am married, pregnant, or planning a pregnancy?
Zika can cause complications to unborn infants, primarily Microcephaly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise that pregnant women consult their doctor and not travel to affected areas. See CDC, Traveler's Health: Zika.
Zika can also be transferred through sexual intercourse. CDC advises pregnant women and their male parteners who travel to Zika-affected areas to use protection or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, even if the individual who traveled to the area has no smptoms of illness. Male travelers should consult with their physician after travel to affected areas and before engaging in sexual relations. See the CDC Zika Virus and Pregnancy – Questions & Answers; see also, CDC, Men and Zika.
Couples thinking about pregnancy should refer to CDC recomendations for travelers to countries where there is risk of Zika infection, see CDC, Women and Their Partners Trying to Become Pregnant.
What should I do if I experience symptoms while traveling?
You should seek medical advice from a doctor. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the symptoms of Zika virus can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest, and plenty of water. If you have Zika, continue to avoid getting mosquito bites and do not have any sexual interactions with another.
What should I do if I experience symptoms after returning home?
You could experience symptoms after returning home from a Zika infected area. If you suspect you have Zika or another mosquito-borne virus disease (Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Malaria), seek immediate medical advice and care from your physician. If you have Zika, or another mosquito born virus disease, it is important to continue to avoid mosquito bites in order to spread the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently extended the recommended time that asymptomatic males and females continue safer sex practices after returning from an area with active Zika transmision. This has been extended from a previous eight week recommendation to a period of six months. For the complete article on the "Prevention of sexual transmission of Zika virus," click here.
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