Zika Virus: Travel Advisory
Heading to South America?
by Abu Poblete | January 27, 2016
If you’re planning to go to South American countries like Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, or Puerto Rico, among others, you may want to take a step back before you make your itinerary.
Right now, one of the biggest problems facing these countries is the spread of the Zika virus or ZIKV. Just like dengue, ZIKV is passed around by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that likes hanging out in warm countries. In Brazil alone, 1.3 million ZIKV cases have been recorded. What’s alarming is that more pregnant women have been infected which then causes their child to suffer from microcephaly or the child growing an abnormally small head than normal. Microcephaly is a neurological sickness caused by an underdeveloped brain which usually causes brain damage, or worse, if untreated, death for the child.
ZIKV has also recently crept into the US (six cases), UK (three cases) and Denmark (one case) with. These people are reported to have traveled from South American countries.
So before booking your flights, here are things you should know about your destination.
The symptoms are mild fever, joint pains, headaches, rashes, and conjunctivitis. These can last between two to seven days. Make sure to drink lots of fluids and the common fever and pain medicine to alleviate the symptoms.
Transmission of the virus
ZIKV is transmitted through the Aedes aegypti mosquito. But just recently, a person in Texas was infected by the disease from having sex with his or her partner who just traveled from South America. So if you’re already infected, make sure to avoid getting bitten again or partaking in sexual intercourse to avoid infecting other people.
Safety measures you HAVE to do
If you really want to go to these countries (or you’ve already paid for your flights), then safety measures against the virus will literally be your lifesaver. These mosquitoes survive only in places with hot climates, which is why South American countries are their targets.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised everyone staying and traveling to infected countries to use insect repellents, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and air conditioning to avoid mosquitoes. Also take note that these mosquitoes attack more during the day.
According to the Pan American Health Organization, here are the countries affected by ZIKV: Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela, United States and United Kingdom.
The government’s safety measures
In Brazil, a testing kit that helps identify the infection quicker is being developed. They have also given research on ZIKV more financial support.
As for those planning to go to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, areas will only be fumigated on a “case-by-case” basis to assure the safety of the game’s athletes and visitors.
Other countries have also advised their citizens and tourists, especially pregnant women, to postpone going to the country. Some countries even told women to not get pregnant until 2017 to not risk the safety of their future children.
No cure and vaccinations have been discovered for ZIKV yet, and according to US scientists, the discovery might take 10 years to be completed.
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