The Zika virus has reared its ugly head in several areas of the world, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing a travel alert for people heading to affected areas. The alert encourages travelers to take enhanced precautions to safeguard themselves against the virus, which involves protecting yourself from mosquito bites.
Zika Virus Explained
Zika is spread when infected mosquitoes bite humans, and no vaccination yet exists to prevent against the disease. The illness is typically mild, with symptoms lasting anywhere from a couple of days to a week. Symptoms usually include:
- Joint pain
- Red eyes, known as conjunctivitis
Severe cases of Zika that involve hospitalization are rare. And although Zika cannot be spread person-to-person like the flu virus, individuals infected with the virus can transmit the virus to mosquitoes if bitten. Those infected mosquitoes, in turn, can then spread the virus by biting other people.
The scary part of Zika is its suspected impact on newborns. There have now been thousands of reports of babies born with smaller than expected heads which correlates to brain damage. Much of these defects are irreversible which is why the virus is is center stage for discussion. Currently, there is no vaccine.
Where Zika Has Been Reported
The first confirmed Zika virus infection was reported in May 2015 in Brazil. Since then, other regions have reported local transmission of the disease, which means mosquitoes in the area have been found to be infected with the virus. The latest CDC travel notices on Zika includes reports of the virus in:
- The Caribbean
- South America
- Central America
- Cape Verde
How to Protect Yourself
As of January 29th, three airlines have started letting pregnant women cancel or postpone their trips to affected areas. These airlines currently include United, Delta, and American.
If for some reason, you must travel to an infected country, protecting yourself from mosquito bites is the only way to protect yourself and your family from the virus. The mosquitos carrying the Zika virus most frequently bite during the daytime, and you can take multiple precautions to keep yourself and your family safe.
Mosquito bite prevention tips include:
- Using insect repellents directly on your skin, choosing those with proven, active ingredients such as: DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin, which is also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel and icaridin
- Treating clothing with permethrin, an insecticide that is safe for fabrics but should not be used directly on skin
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Choosing lodging with air conditioning or screens on open windows
- Using bed nets, preferably those treated with permethrin
- Covering strollers and cribs with mosquito netting and dressing infants in clothing that covers arms and legs, as insect repellents should not be used on children younger than 2 months old
If you’re pregnant, we recommend taking it safe and not traveling to these countries. If you must, take proper prevention to avoid getting the Zika Virus.
You can stay up-to-date with the latest CDC travel alerts to check for Zika in other destinations. Although you don’t have to necessarily all-out avoid travel to areas where Zika has been reported, you do want to come armed with mosquito repellent and common sense. You can also contact Swift with any additional questions; we’re always happy to help!