The world is no stranger to the effects of mosquito borne illnesses. With some diseases dating as far back as 2700 BC, mosquitoes have been negatively affecting the human population for centuries. The newest disease raising fear is Zika Virus.
The symptoms of Zika virus are similar to those of Dengue fever. With one in five people infected showing signs like fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis the virus does not usually require hospitalization or result in fatalities.
But the virus has not been researched thoroughly, and this means the effects are not yet fully understood. However, the fear of contracting Zika virus exists primarily amongst pregnant women, and with good cause. There has been a direct correlation between an increase in microcephaly in infants and fetal losses in women infected by Zika virus during pregnancy. While the the evidence of poor pregnancy outcomes due to Zika virus is prevalent, additional studies must be done in order to make this distinction.
It has also been reported that Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves, has been found in patients following suspected Zika virus infection.
Below is a map of countries where Zika virus has been reported. It's first appearance in the Western Hemisphere was documented in May of 2015.
Image Provided by cdc.gov
For only being reported in the Western Hemisphere a mere 8 months ago, the virus has made its presence known by negatively effecting pregnant women and their babies. In Brazil, over 3,500 cases of microcephaly have been reported between 10/2015 and 1/2015. That is a huge increase from 147 cases reported in 2014.
“CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.” - says CDC Newsroom
Although the CDC has issued a Level 2 travel alert, which advises travelers to practice enhanced precaution, it does not limit travelers to nonessential travel - unless they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
The CDC recommends pregnant women in any trimester to consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing, and any women trying to become pregnant should consult with their physician. If travelers purchased travel insurance with Cancel For Any Reason, that may be their best bet in canceling their trip.
Because there is no vaccine for Zika virus, travelers are limited in preventative measures. They can strictly follow the steps recommended by the CDC to prevent mosquito bites during their trip, but the only surefire way to avoid contracting Zika virus is to avoid affected areas.
If you plan to travel to the affected areas, be sure to take preventative measures against bug bites. It is advised to use repellent made with more than 20% DEET, stay in air conditioned or rooms enclosed with screen doors and windows.
Read about travel insurance and the Zika virus here.