The Zika Virus: What to Know when Traveling

By Frieda Schweky Jan 02, 2018 12:12 PM

The Zika virus epidemic has been a known threat for decades when outbreaks in Africa occurred as well as Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Concern grew globally in 2015 when the first confirmed infection was reported in Brazil.

Since then, cases have spread to many other countries including the U.S. and its territories. Puerto Rico has reported the most cases, while local transmission of the virus also has been reported in Florida.

With intersession approaching, the Zika virus is a major factor to consider when booking a vacation. The list of areas with outbreaks is constantly being updated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). On the CDC’s website, you can find an updated global map indicating Zika affected locations and many other tools that can help educate you on the virus in general.

Dr. Silverman at the Borough Park OB GYN practice said that it is still unsafe to travel to places that have the Zika virus. Traveling to places where outbreaks are taking place should be avoided by pregnant women, and men and women who hope to conceive a child in coming months.

The virus is mostly spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Dr. Silverman says that the virus stays in woman for eight weeks and can remain in men as long as six months. Couples should be aware that either partner can be infected with the virus and It can then be transmitted to one another sexually.

Zika can have little to few effects on a pregnant woman herself which can be the most dangerous aspect of the virus. It’s achy symptoms are hard to distinguish between normal pregnancy aches.

The true consequences of being bitten comes to a fetus in the womb of an infected woman. During pregnancy, the Zika infection can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe brain defects. This can cause severe mental retardation in the baby. It is also linked to other problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects.

Dr. Silverman’s advice is to avoid places with known outbreaks altogether. Dr. Silverman stresses that it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you do, for whatever reason, find yourself in an affected area, the following precautions should be taken:

  • Apply Insect repellent with an active ingredient like DEET or Picaridin.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in rooms with air conditioning.

To learn more about the Zika Virus and how you could avoid possibly getting infected, visit the CDC website.

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Frieda Schweky is Sephardic.Org's official community events reporter. For inquiries and to get involved with our site, please contact Frieda via email.