Zika Virus – is it safe to travel?
Zika – a bad-assed virus? Well yes, it’s not great but according to current research, for most of us it’s only nasty if you (or your partner) is or is trying to get pregnant or if you have any auto-immune diseases. 80% of the rest of us won’t notice symptoms (even if we have picked up the virus) and those of us that fall ill may feel like we have a mild case of flu or conjunctivitis (itchy and gunky eyes).
I’m being asked by potential travellers to destinations such as the Caribbean or South America whether they should still go. An honest answer? It’s up to you. If you’re pregnant or wish to get pregnant in the near future – no. If not, then consider the information available from WHO (The World Health Organisation) and make up your own mind. Me? I’m off to Costa Rica next month. I will take precautions to protect myself and my family from being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry the virus but I’m not cancelling my trip.
Here are some of the most recent facts about Zika but please bear in mind that scientists are discovering more about it each week and please visit your national advice service (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ in the UK) for the most up-to-date guidance.
Currently, the Zika virus is present in the Americas, Caribbean, Cape Verde, Pacific Islands, Thailand and the Maldives.
How do you get the virus?
● The virus is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes Mosquito
● The mosquito bites during the day, particularly mid-morning and late afternoon before sunset. It seems to love the feet and ankles and likes living around stagnant water.
● The mosquito can also transmit the Dengue and/or Chikungunya viruses.
What are the symptoms?
● For the 20% of us that have symptoms, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. Other symptoms may include muscle pain and headache.
● Symptoms usually begin 2-7 days after infection.
● It’s usually a mild disease lasting a few days or a week and rarely requires hospitalisation.
It apparent that the virus is a very real threat to pregnant women particularly in their first trimester (although there is some risk throughout pregnancy). Whilst the mother may not suffer any symptoms of having caught the virus, there is a potential link with microcephaly in newborn babies.
What should you do to prevent catching Zika?
● Try your best to avoid getting bitten, however, this is very hard as the Aedes mosquito is active during the day. Wear protective clothing (long sleeves and trousers) and apply mosquito spray regularly – use one that contains DEET.
● Sleep under a mosquito net.
● Avoid areas with stagnant water where the mosquitos breed.
● If you (or your partner) are pregnant or are considering pregnancy in the near future, you are advised not to travel to infected regions.
Please remember that the mozzies have chosen some outstanding countries to live. They are vibrant and exciting place to visit with some of the most welcoming people you will ever meet. You have little reason not to travel unless you are planning or expecting your own bundle of joy.