Zika Virus And What Travellers Need To Know

Zika Virus warning sign
It’s been all over the news, but what should you do if you’re travelling to a place with the Zika virus?

 

What exactly is the Zika Virus?

The virus is carried by female Aedes mosquitoes which are daytime biting mosquitoes. These same mosquitoes can carry Dengue and Chikungunya virus. If you are bitten by an infected mosquito, you may notice symptoms of the virus after two to seven days which can include fever, headache, skin rashes, painful joints and eye infection.

The illness is usually self-limiting and lasts up to one week. The virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days. Only one in four people bitten by an infected mosquito will notice these symptoms.

The biggest problem is during pregnancy. Whilst a pregnant woman has the same chance of being bitten as anyone else, the virus can cause a condition known as microcephaly in the unborn baby where the brain does not develop to its normal size and the head is shrunken.

Which areas are affected by Zika?

The countries affected are changing but as of February, 2nd 2016, the World Health Organisation have detected cases mainly in many areas of Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean including: American Samoa, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Fiji, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Maldives ,Martinique Mexico, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Suriname,Thailand,Tonga, US Virgin Islands and Venezuela.

 

Zika Virus Infographic

Prevention and Treatment

Pregnant women, in particular, should consider postponing trips to any area where Zika may be present as they may be putting their unborn child at risk. Other travellers should try to reduce their chances of being bitten by an infected mosquito as much as possible. There is currently no vaccination available against the Zika Virus and no specific treatment other than for symptoms.

Whilst it is not possible to be 100% protected against being bitten, we would advise the following tips should be followed:

  • Use a high strength insect repellent, such as the Trek range, containing DEET, Picaridin or Saltidin on all exposed skin and ensure that it is applied after sunscreen.
  • Where possible, wear clothing that has been treated with an anti-mosquito product such as Lifesystems EX4 and permethrin-impregnated socks e.g. Bugsox
  • Sleep under an impregnated mosquito net at night and during the day, if you intend to nap.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water so be aware of any water sources around you such as water buts and ponds where mosquitoes may be hatching.

These tips should be followed during the day and at night, particularly if you are in an area where Malaria is also present as these mosquitoes bite between dusk and dawn!

1 Comment

  • John Appleby

    Thank you for this explanation.