If you’re getting ready to travel, you may be wondering what exactly the Zika virus is and how concerned you should be about it. The virus was first identified in 1947 but is currently receiving worldwide attention as a result of a resurgence in South America.
The virus is known to exist in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas as well. Though it is rarely lethal, the virus can cause problems in unborn infants, causing them to develop with skulls and brains that are much smaller than average. This is cause for concern and makes preventing infection a wise choice.
How It Spreads
The Zika virus generally does not spread through human-to-human contact, although the World Health Organization has received two reports of sexual transmission. Generally the virus travels in the same way the Dengue virus does: through the same mosquito carriers that transmit it to humans by biting them.
Only 1 out of every 5 people infected with the Zika virus shows symptoms, so most people never know they are infected. The virus passes through their bodies in a few days or weeks just as any other virus does. When symptoms are present, they are generally mild and include fever, rash, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and joint pain. The virus is diagnosed through blood, urine or saliva tests but is generally only tested for if the patient has recently traveled.
Because there is no cure for the Zika virus except to let it run its course while managing any symptoms, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. While they may not prevent Zika as of yet, vaccinations prevent many other diseases you won’t want to bring home as souvenirs.
Also, when traveling to regions where Zika is present, be sure to pack long sleeves and pants to keep your skin covered. Use insect repellents known to deter mosquitoes when you go outside and use mosquito netting around your bed where appropriate. These precautions are especially important for pregnant women. If you live in an area where Aedes mosquitoes are present, remove all standing, stagnant water from your property promptly as these water pools give the insects a breeding ground.
No matter where your travels take you, be sure to visit your doctor or urgent care center such as U.S. HealthWorks for the appropriate travel vaccinations before you leave.
What You Need to Know about the Zika Virus: Symptoms and Facts. MyPhysiciansNow.
Zika Symptoms. CDC.