February 04, 2016
UTSA and UT System strongly encourage international travel, and strive to keep travelers informed. Many of our travelers frequent areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are prominent. As the Zika virus spreads across the Americas, this information may be helpful to our travelers.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a searchable website with maps documenting areas with Zika and prevention strategies.
An official CDC Health Advisory has been issued for individuals traveling to the Pacific Islands, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Mexico. As of January 2016, 14 countries have reported transmission of the Zika virus, with spread to other regions very likely.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the mosquitoes that spread Zika usually do not live at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) because of environmental conditions. Travelers whose itineraries are limited to areas above this elevation are at minimal risk of getting Zika from a mosquito.
On February 1, 2016, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, M.D., confirmed that there may be a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly and declared the epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
What is Zika?
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease. Discovered in the 1940s, only occasional human cases were reported until 2007 when an outbreak occurred in Micronesia. Since it appeared in Brazil in May 2015, it has been spreading explosively in the Americas. There is growing evidence linking the disease to birth defects and neurological complications, yet there is currently no vaccine, and no cure.
- Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
- People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
- There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
- The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
Where is Zika found?
- Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. territory
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Saint Martin
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- American Samoa
- Cape Verde
How can Zika be prevented?
International SOS offers facts and prevention strategies in this short presentation. International SOS also has a website devoted to information about the Zika virus.
- No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
- Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites (see below).
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
- Always follow the product label instructions
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
What are the symptoms?
- Skin rashes
- Muscle and joint pain
These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2 to 7 days.
Those infected may not present any symptoms at all. Only 1 in 5 people who are infected have any symptoms.
What should I do if I think I have Zika?
- During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
- To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.
What if I'm pregnant or planning to become pregnant?
“Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant must determine the level of risk they wish to take with regard to Zika and plan accordingly,” WHO guidance stated.
- As there is no current evidence to suggest that Zika virus can be transmitted to infants through breast-feeding, WHO reiterated guidance from the CDC that recommends women continue to breast-feed. The agency, however, warned that Zika virus infection may be transmitted from mothers to full-term infants during childbirth.