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Preventing Zika Infection When You Travel

The Zika virus is active in south Florida and certain other parts of the world. If you travel to areas where Zika is currently active, you are at risk for a Zika infection. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika infection, so you’ll need to take steps to protect yourself.

What Causes Zika?

The Zika virus is mostly passed on by the bite of the mosquito species Aedes. Pregnant women who have it can also give it to their unborn child. It may also be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusion. But experts know so little about the virus that they are still learning all the ways it can be passed on.

What Are the Symptoms of Zika?

Most people infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms. For the 1 out of 5 people who do have symptoms, they are usually very mild. They last 5 to 7 days and then go away completely. They may include:

  • Conjunctivitis, when the eyes become red, irritated, and inflamed

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Joint and muscle pain

  • Rash

How Is Zika Treated?

There is no medicine to cure the Zika virus. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms. Treatments include: 

  • Fluids. Drinking lots of fluids will help you stay hydrated. Water and sports drinks are good choices. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine.

  • Medicine. Acetaminophen can help ease fever and pain.

  • Rest. You may feel better more quickly if you get plenty of rest.

How Does Zika Spread?

The Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and sexual activity. Pregnant women who have it can also give it to their unborn child.  To prevent infection, you need to protect yourself from mosquitoes, and use protection during any sexual activity. You’ll need to do this both during travel and after travel.

Travel and Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you should not travel to an area with Zika. If your partner is pregnant or you are planning a pregnancy, talk with your healthcare provider before traveling. This is because Zika can cause severe birth defects in a baby when a pregnant woman has Zika.

Where Is Zika Active?

Zika is currently active in these areas:                                                                                     

  • Miami-Dade County in south Florida

  • Many countries in South America such as Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina

  • Many countries in Central America such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama

  • Islands in the Caribbean such as the Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico

  • Pacific islands such as Samoa, Fiji, and Marshall Islands

  • Singapore

  • Cape Verde in Africa

See the full up-to-date list of countries of where Zika is active by checking the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/zika.

Before You Travel

When you are getting ready for your trip: 

  • Choose protective clothing. Bring clothing that covers your body to prevent mosquito bites. Pick clothing with long sleeves and long pant legs. Bring socks and shoes to cover your feet.

  • Buy permethrin. This is a type of insecticide you can apply to fabrics. If you are going camping, treat your clothing, shoes, and your tent with permethrin. You can also buy gear that’s already treated. Don’t use permethrin directly on your skin.

  • Pack a mosquito net. You’ll need to use a mosquito net if you are sleeping outdoors or in a place with no screens or air conditioning. If you don’t know if you will have access to a net, pack your own.

  • Buy bug spray. Bring a skin spray that is EPA-approved and contains DEET, picaridin (also called KBR 3023 or icaridin), oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone, IR3535. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label about how to apply and when to reapply.

While You Are Traveling

When you are in an area with Zika: 

  • Look for air conditioning or screens. When picking a restaurant, hotel, or other venue, choose places with screens in windows and doors, or air conditioning.

  • Wear your protective clothes. When you go outside, wear clothes that covers your body to prevent mosquito bites. Choose long sleeves and long pant legs. Wear socks and shoes to cover your feet and ankles.

  • Use bug spray often. For skin that’s not covered with clothes, apply your bug spray as the label directs to prevent mosquito bites. Do this both during the day and at night.

  • Sleep with a mosquito net. Make sure to use a mosquito net if you are sleeping outdoors or in a venue with no screens or air conditioning.

  • Use protection if you have sex. Zika can be spread during vaginal, oral, and anal sex, and shared sex toys. Use condoms and dental dams during your travel.

When You Get Home

After you return from your trip, do the following:

  • Prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks. This is to avoid mosquitoes carrying Zika from you to others.

  • Use condoms or don’t have sex for at least 6 months after your symptoms start if you are a man, or 8 weeks if you are a woman.

  • Use protection every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex if your partner is pregnant. Or don’t have sex during the pregnancy.

  • Don’t try for a pregnancy until at least 8 weeks after your Zika symptoms start if you are a woman, or at least 6 months if you are a man.

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have symptoms of Zika after travel. Symptoms may occur within a week or two of travel. They may be mild and can include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle aches, and headache. You may need a blood or urine test to check for the virus.

If You Think You May Have Zika

If you live in or you or your partner visits an area with Zika, contact your healthcare provider right away if you have symptoms. Symptoms may be mild and can include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle aches, and headache. You may need a blood or urine test to check for the virus. There is no treatment for Zika. 

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 2/1/2017
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