Before You Travel for the Holidays…
Unless you were living under a rock this summer, you heard quite a bit about the dangers of the Zika virus. Since there’s no vaccine, and the virus is spread through mosquitos (and sexual contact), the CDC issued several alerts for US travelers—especially pregnant women. So as you’re setting up your travel plans for the holidays, keep in mind that just because you’ve not been hearing about Zika in the news, the outbreak is not over!
Zika virus isn’t new—the first instance of Zika in a human was in 1952—but the outbreak in the Americas that started in January 2016 brought new attention to the virus. For most people, the virus has no symptoms. If you do get sick, you might have a fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache or a rash, but some people develop an autoimmune disorder called Guillain–Barré syndrome. Unfortunately, the greatest danger of the Zika virus is to pregnant women. The virus can cause microcephaly and other brain malformations in some fetuses.
The CDC website keeps an updated list of where the virus is active and details the level of precaution they recommend. (State Department warnings are here) For travel in Zika-affected areas, the CDC recommends practicing enhanced precautions. That means if you’re scheduling trips to any of the locations with a Travel Health Notice, you should protect yourself by using insect repellent, Permethrin spray and, if you’re sleeping anywhere outside, use a bed net.