Zika Virus Update — What Travelers Should Know

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By John Gobbels, MedjetAssist VP/COO

The Zika virus is a single-stranded RNA virus that is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The mosquitos typically breed in domestic water-holding containers and are aggressive daytime biters and feed both indoors and outdoors near dwellings.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Note that only about 1 in 5 people infected with the virus become ill. The incubation period for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.

Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and case fatality is low. However, there have been cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome reported in some patients following suspected Zika virus infection. The Brazil Ministry of Health is also investigating the possible association between Zika virus and a reported increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly.

Currently, there is no vaccine for the Zika virus so treatment is palliative including rest, fluids, pain and fever reducers such as acetaminophen or paracetamol. Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of hemorrhage (bleeding). If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

Zika in the United States

All Countries & Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission

Currently,  the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to an area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman is considering travel to one of these areas, she should talk to her healthcare provider. If she travels, she should strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

You can build a Zika Prevention Kit

  • Use a mosquito bed net when traveling. Remember that mosquitos can live indoors and will bite any time, day or night.
  • Use standing water treatment tabs around your home as these will kill larvae in standing water.
  • Use EPA-Registered insect repellent. Remember if using sunscreen to apply it first, then the insect repellent. When used as directed, insect repellants are proven safe and effective even for pregnant women and breastfeeding women.
  • Use Permethrin Spray to treat clothing and gear from mosquitos. Do not spray permethrin directly to the skin.

Zika Travel notices are located here: