Zika is a virus spread by mosquitos. It is currently spreading very quickly and, on Friday January 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues a worldwide Travel Alert Level 2 for people traveling to parts of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, which means to “practice enhanced precautions”. That means that you should certainly take steps to minimize your exposure to mosquitos while traveling, which is a good practice anyway, but that you shouldn’t necessarily alter your business travel or vacation travel plans.
Only about one in five people who contract the Zika virus will show any symptoms, and they’re usually fairly mild. The most common symptoms of Zika include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, eye pain and headache. Symptoms usually last about a week and hospitalization is rare. In addition, the disease has been linked to microcephaly in some cases, which has led to babies being born with underdeveloped brains.
The CDC recommends the following things that you can do to minimize the risk of attracting the Zika virus while traveling:
- Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places that have air conditioning or that at least use window and door screens. If you are outside, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
- Use insect repellants on your skin and reapply regularly.
- Apply permethrin to your clothing and gear, or purchase items already treated with it (not on your skin).
In addition, the World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women consider changing travel plans to areas affected by Zika virus and that pregnant women who live in affected areas should consult their physician.
Treatment for Zika is fairly simple. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and use medicine like acetaminophen to help reduce pain and fever. Zika’s symptoms are similar in nature to Dengue fever, and the CDC recommends that travelers not use NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen until Dengue is ruled out in order to reduce the risk of hemorrhage.
Get the latest information on Zika virus:
- iJET: A to Zika: Everything you need to know about Zika Virus
- WHO declares Zika virus global emergency
- Zika Virus Q&A (CDC)
- Travel Health Notices (CDC)
- Zika Virus Fact Sheet (World Health Organization)