The Zika virus has given the entire world a huge scare. It is spread by mosquito bites and can also be sexually transmitted. It has caused extremely serious birth defects in the countries which have seen Zika outbreaks. It is very rarely fatal, and causes fever, joint pains, rash and conjunctivitis in adults, but pregnant women have to be very cautious about this disease as it causes microcephaly, babies born with extremely small heads which leads to developmental disorders and early death. It can cause miscarriage and stillbirth too. If you’re traveling to countries where the Zika virus is endemic, you have to be very careful.
Precautions you need to take
The Zika virus is caused by mosquito bite and unlike other mosquito-borne diseases can be sexually transmitted too.Prevention of the Zika virus is possible by taking a few precautions, as there is no vaccine or any preventative or curative medicine for the virus.
Precautions before travel
You must collect up-to-date information about the Zika virus, potential risks and how to reduce exposure to the virus.
Precautions during your stay
- If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
Pregnant women should avoid going to places where Zika is endemic, according to CDC. If you are trying to get pregnant, neither of you should travel to these countries, as the Zika virus is sexually transmitted also, so the husband / boyfriend / partner can transmit the virus which could cause complications later.You must speak to your doctor or health-care provider if you do have to visit these countries.
- Apply insect repellant
Use EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) registered insect repellant and apply on your skin. If you are using sunscreen as well, first apply sunscreen and then insect repellant. Repellants should contain DEET, oil of lemon or eucalyptus, or IR 3535. Pregnant women can use insect repellant creams which are marked safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Reapply repellant frequently
Read the directions on the pack and reapply as and when directed.
Stay preferably in A/c rooms
Stay in a room which has air-conditioning and is totally closed. Make sure to check that the room has window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Wear full body covering clothes
To avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, cover your body as much as possible. Men can wear long sleeved shirts and women long sleeved shirts and tops and pants.
- Use mosquito nets
Sleep under mosquito nets which offer the best protection when you sleep. You should use the net outside and inside for full protection, especially during the day, when the Aedes mosquito is most active.
- Practice safe sex
As this virus is sexually transmitted also, you have to be extra cautious and must use condoms and if possible, abstain from sex altogether, during your period of stay.
Precautions after return
It’s not enough to take all the precautions during your travel but you must continue to be careful on return.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites
After returning from your trip, you must take care not to let yourself be bitten by mosquitoes, so that you don’t inadvertently spread the virus to mosquitoes which can then bite and infect other people. Keep applying insect repellant creams up to 3 weeks after return.
- Abstain from sex
After returning from Zika affected areas, abstain from sex for at least 2 weeks. Condoms are a must if you decide to have sex, but there is no information about the effectiveness of condoms preventing the spread of Zika, so it is better to abstain.
- Get yourself checked
If you experience any joint pains, fever, rash or conjunctivitis after return, contact a health care provider immediately and mention that you had visited a Zika virus endemic area.
Note: Do not assume that you are not infected if you do not show any symptoms. You must be careful up to 2 weeks even if you don’t show any symptoms.
- Delay getting pregnant
Defer your pregnancy plans up to 8 weeks so that you don’t infect the fetus with the Zika virus.
If you are careful and consistently take the right precautions, you can visit a country where the Zika virus is endemicand drastically lower any chances of infection.