The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert to highlight countries where Zika virus is prevalent. The Zika virus is spread by mosquitos and is therefore most prevalent in tropical environments. Generally, symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), lasting a few days to a week. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Rest, fluids and over the counter medicines such as Tylenol can be used to treat symptoms.
Travelers can limit their exposure to Zika (and other mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya) by taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
Zika is linked to a specific birth defect called microcephaly. This link is so strong that the CDC issued travel guidance for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, warning them to avoid visiting places where the virus is currently circulating. Such travelers should regularly review the travel alert for updates as more countries are likely to be added to the list.
If you are concerned about a risk of exposure to Zika related to upcoming travel, contact a specialist in travel medicine, such as St Luke’s travel clinic. Pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, should consult with their OB/GYN.
Last revised: 1/29/2016