Zika Virus – What Travelers Should Know
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.
Countries and 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.
Prevention of Zika Virus:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness and follow the directions for use.
- If you have a baby or child:
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Zika Travel notices are located here: