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Zika Virus: Risks and Important Information

Content via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For many, the cold winter months seem like the ideal time to pack up and head south to a warm, tropical island. But, with the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in the Caribbean and South America, you might want to reconsider those vacation plans—especially if you are pregnant or considering pregnancy. Here are a few things you should know before traveling to tropical destinations where Zika is currently prevalent.

How Do You Get the Zika Virus?

Zika virus is mainly transmitted when one is bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito, however, a recent case in Texas has shown that the virus can be sexually transmitted as well. Generally, adults and children infected with the Zika virus experience mild symptoms, like a fever, joint pain, rashes or red eyes, for about a week.

The virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby both during the pregnancy and close to the time of birth. Babies of women who become infected while pregnant are at risk for birth defects.

Link to Pregnancy Issues

If you are traveling abroad, Abington – Jefferson Health’s Travelers Clinic can help with information about health alerts and provide preventative vaccines.

Recently, there have been many reports in Brazil of microcephaly, which is a birth condition in which a baby has a smaller head than normal. Since microcephaly is caused by abnormal brain development, in some cases it can also result in developmental delays and complications, or even infant death. A recent spike in cases of microcephaly has been attributed to the Zika virus.

Reconsider Travel

If you have a trip planned to the Caribbean or South America, you may want to reconsider. A travel alert has been issued by the CDC for anyone traveling to regions and countries where Zika virus is prevalent. These regions include Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Venezuela.

It is highly recommended that pregnant women, in any trimester, avoid traveling to these regions while the transmission of Zika virus is still ongoing. Those who do travel to these regions should consult their doctor prior to departing. You can find more information on travel and Zika virus from the CDC.

How to Avoid Zika Virus

If you do chose to travel to regions where the Zika virus is actively spreading, be sure to take precautions:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • When indoors, stay in places with air conditioning or with window and door screens that prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.
  • Sleep in beds under mosquito nets to prevent bites while you are sleeping and unaware.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellant. This is safe and effective for pregnant and nursing women.

Zika Virus Treatment

Right now, there is no vaccine or medicine to treat Zika virus. Currently, those infected with Zika are given medicines to treat individual symptoms, but not the virus itself. Todd Braun, MD, chief of Infectious Diseases Division at Abington – Jefferson Health, directs travelers to follow the procedures suggested by the CDC. “It is recommended that travelers to these areas should monitor for symptoms or illness upon return, and if they become ill, they should contact their health professional.”

For more information, call the Travelers Clinic: 215-481-6350.

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