The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a “public health emergency of international concern” for the Zika virus on February 1, but also stated that it “found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus.” Still, it makes sense to take precautions against Zika if you are traveling to an area where the virus is spreading. The following are some facts that can help you make informed decisions about your vacation plans.
- Zika is currently spreading in parts of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Zika may also be transmitted through contact with infected blood or sexual contact (sexual transmission can be prevented through the use of condoms).
- Zika does not pose a major threat to most people, and there are precautions all travelers can take to minimize their risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito. Approximately 80% of people who contract Zika have no symptoms at all. Those who do may experience fever, rash, joint pain, muscle aches, headache and vomiting. The illness is usually mild and lasts about a week.
- Zika can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and there have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain, called microcephaly, in babies of mothers who had Zika while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and birth defects is growing, but until more is known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends special travel precautions for pregnant women. Pregnant women (in any trimester) should consider postponing travel to an area where Zika is spreading.
Right now, the most important protective measures are controlling the mosquito population and preventing mosquito bites. Here are some precautions you can take when visiting affected areas:
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent. EPA-registered repellents are effective and safe, even for pregnant women.
- Limit your exposure to mosquitos. Choose lodging with air conditioning or good screens on the windows and doors. Sleep under a mosquito net (you can even buy one before you leave and take it with you – look for one treated with permethrin, an insecticide).
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and treat your clothing with permethrin or another EPA-registered insecticide.
Talk with your Cruise Holidays travel expert about the latest news on Zika. We keep current with all travel alerts and restrictions, and can let you know about any risk in the areas you’ll travel to. If you want to change your plans, we can also work with travel providers to obtain waivers or refunds for you.