Friday, January 29, 2016

Travel Advisory - Zika Virus

Zika Virus

On January 15, 2016 the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) upgraded their Zika virus travel health notice to “Alert Level 2”, (Practice Enhanced Precautions) with specific affected areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America.  As of January 26th, the CDC notice now includes the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands in the affected areas.  For the most up-to-date information on the Zika virus & countries affected, please visit the website:

Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquitoes, which mainly bite during daytime hours. It is not transmitted from person to person. Symptoms of Zika typically develop 3-12 days after being bitten and may include fever, headache, skin rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from 2-7 days and most people who contract Zika experience no symptoms at all. Comprehensive health information can be found at

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women to postpone travel to 14 Latin American countries because of the virus. “Until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing,” the CDC said.

The countries named in the CDC travel alert are:

In Latin America:  Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname & Venezuela

In the Caribbean:  Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands.

Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa

Samoa in the South Pacific

What can I do to protect myself?
The CDC recommends the following steps to avoid mosquito bites:

Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts & long pants, preferably a light color

Use an insect repellent approved by the EPA as directed.  Higher percentages of active ingredients provide longer protection such as DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), IR3535

If both sunscreen & insect repellent is used, apply the sunscreen first.

Use permethrin-treated clothing & gear, such as boots, pants, socks & tents.  You can buy pre-treated clothing & gear or treat them yourself.

Stay & sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms

Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors

There is no vaccine or cure for Zika, which was rarely detected until 2013. Little is known about the virus, which has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a medical term that refers to an abnormally small head – a serious condition that can cause lifelong developmental problems. Other neurological issues have also been reported. Symptoms include fever, red and bumpy rashes, joint pain and pinkeye – but some patients have no symptoms at all. Zika virus had previously only been associated with mild health consequences.

The virus has affected thousands across the Americas since last year and is expected to spread further across the region, where the population has not been exposed to the disease and so lacks immunity, according to the World Health Organization.

The CDC advisory recommends that women who are pregnant in any trimester consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If pregnant women do opt to travel to Zika affected areas, the CDC recommends talking to their healthcare provider in advance and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip. Specific guidance for women who are trying to become pregnant is also included in the CDC advisory. More information can be found here: