What Travelers Should Know About Zika Virus – Affected Countries, Risks, Symptoms and Prevention

24 May 2016 |

When traveling, both men and women need to be careful and cautious about certain things. Apart from securing their belongings and avoiding suspicious strangers, travelers also need to be careful about staying away from numerous infections and viral ailments. Of late, the buzz regarding Zika virus has been doing the round globally. There is much confusion among the mass regarding its symptoms, risk factors and treatment. So, it is better that you get your facts clear on the Zika virus before traveling abroad.

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The impact of Zika virus on global travel industry
The emergence and spread of the Zika virus has affected the global travel sector in a massive way. Spreading through the Latin America and Caribbean region, the virus has made tourists worried about the consequences of infection. The risk of the mosquito borne virus leading to microcephaly in kids has made women anxious.

Facts that you should know about Zika
You need not press the panic button before traveling owing to the invasion of Zika virus. It is important to get the basics clarified. Health experts feel travelers also need to think about other ailments that are actually more widespread and contagious than the Zika virus! These include chicken pox, measles, and influenza. Mosquitoes can also transmit ailments like dengue and Chikungunya.

Zika is not very contagious and you cannot contract it just by touching a person infected with the virus. However, it can spread from one infected person to another through unprotected sex. Guillain-Barré syndrome can also be caused by the virus.

What are the symptoms?
Every mosquito borne viral infection has some symptoms. However, the problem with the Zika virus is that not all infected persons show the symptoms, making diagnosis and treatment harder. In some victims, the symptoms are found much later.
The main symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Conjunctivitis.
  • Rash
  • Joint pain

Risk prone areas
It is the Caribbean region and Latin American nations that are at risk. The virus spreads through mosquitoes and the insect thrives in warm-weather climates in these regions. This virus is carried mostly by the Aedes mosquitoes. Brazil is where the health experts find the concentration is the maximum.

Tips for travelers to evade contracting Zika virus
The most useful tips for women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant is avoid traveling to Latin America region. Sexually active men should also avoid traveling to those countries. This is important since there is no vaccine for the virus and research is going on. If a sexually active woman has recently returned from those countries, she may refrain from sex for a while for safety. Sexually active men returning from those countries should not have unprotected sex.

Keeping mosquitoes away is the best thing you can do to stay unaffected by Zika. Using insect repellent sprays is one solution. Using mosquito net and repellent creams are useful while traveling. Other measures like using screens on windows, using air conditioners can also help. Ensure there is no place outside the house where water can accumulate as that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Wearing long sleeve dresses during day is a step that helps as the mosquitoes spreading the virus are active in the daytime.

What pregnant women afflicted with Zika can do?
Pregnant women who have returned from a country where Zika outbreak is rampant should go for extensive medical testing. Getting ultrasounds testing is important. The doctors can also make the patients undergo various blood tests.

Sadly, a lot of things are not clear to the medical community regarding the Zika virus yet. There is simply not enough data to reach conclusion on certain aspects. It is not certain why some women afflicted with the virus give birth to kids with microcephaly while there are others who do not. It is also unclear as to how the virus leads to onset of microcephaly in kids.

What are the treatment options?
There is no cure for the Zika virus, but doctors advise the affected to take rest and stay well hydrated. To diminish pain and fever Tylenol and similar medications are also given. NSAID type medications are not advisable though.