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Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, are some of the most popular destinations for American travelers. Whether you are visiting a beach in Puerto Rico or ruins in Mexico, you are likely to encounter mosquitoes. But now, a virus imported from the East is causing major problems, especially for expecting or potential mothers.
The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites with usually fairly light symptoms. Outbreaks have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. In the last year, the virus gained a foothold in Brazil and since then has been slowly moving northward infecting mosquitoes and humans in 20 countries. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika and no medicine to treat it. The best protection is through preventing mosquito bites and avoiding regions where the disease is present.
While Zika's symptoms are generally mild, research shows it can cause birth defects in baby's whose mothers contract the disease while pregnant. The exact nature of all defects and when they are most likely to occur is still under investigation.
As a mosquito-borne disease, Zika spreads among mosquito populations and from mosquitoes to humans. Some research suggests the virus may transfer from person-to-person through sex or transfusion. But, there has only been one reported case of each type of infection.
The mosquitoes that spread Zika are the same that carry Dengue fever and chikungunya. Areas affected by Dengue could potentially harbor Zika as well. Typically, a mosquito becomes infected when it feeds on a person who has Zika. This mosquito then spreads the virus to other humans through bites.
Rarely, a mother infected with the virus will pass it on to her child in utero. This form of transmission is under investigation by global health organizations. There have been no reports of infants contracting the virus through breast feeding.
Zika is a generally mild disease, though there are some possible complications. Only about 20 percent of those infected with the virus fall ill. Symptoms are usually mild and last anywhere from several days to a week. Severe illness is uncommon and deaths are rare.
Symptoms of Zika virus include:
Health agencies are recommending travelers speak with a travel health specialist before visiting areas where Zika is present. If you are traveling to an affected area, schedule your appointment with Passport Health today!
Zika is a mosquito-borne disease that has no vaccine nor cure. The best form of prevention is avoiding or repelling mosquitoes. CDC recommendations include:
Avoid non-essential travel to areas affected by Zika if you are pregnant or may become pregnant. See our section below on Zika and pregnancy. Many organizations are recommending travelers to these regions, whether pregnant or not, should speak with a travel health clinic like Passport Health before leaving. Schedule an appointment at the Passport Health clinic nearest you today!
Brazil, the United States and other countries are researching a Zika virus vaccine. This research is still in its early stages, according to a recent New York Times report. We will update this section as more information becomes available.
Research shows the Zika virus can spread from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby. It is believed the virus can cause microcephaly (the shrinking of a baby's head) and other health complications. The affects of Zika on pregnant mothers and their children are still under investigation. The CDC recommends special precautions for:
As a mosquito-borne virus, Zika moves with the insects and populations. This has allowed the virus to spread throughout South and Central America. The following countries have had Zika outbreaks in the last year or are at risk of a Zika outbreak:
This list is updated regularly to reflect the most up-to-date Zika virus location information.
For more information on the Zika virus or to scheduled your appointment feel free to call at or email us today!
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