Zika Virus Infects Travelers
Popular destinations throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America, the Pacific Islands and Mexico currently have outbreaks of Zika virus which has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue travel notices and recommendations for travelers. The primary mode of transmission of the Zika virus is the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in returning travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medication to treat the Zika virus. Thus, the best approach for travelers is preventing mosquito bites. As of this date, no locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in Georgia, or anywhere in the United States, despite the presence of the Aedes species mosquitoes in Georgia.
Sexual transmission of the Zika virus also has been documented. Pregnant women should not travel to areas where there is ongoing Zika virus transmission, because of a link between the Zika virus and birth defects. Studies are underway to determine if there is a connection between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and other serious neurological disorders.
The CDC recommends that travelers take the following precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535 (during travel and for three weeks after returning home).
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents).
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms or sleep under a mosquito net.
Upon returning home from travel to Zika-affected countries, individuals should continue to use EPA-registered insect repellents for three weeks and follow precautions to prevent additional mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that spread Zika bite mostly during the daytime and tend to live around homes. Mosquitoes breed in containers of water, so removing anything that holds water or dumping out standing water around the home after it rains will help reduce the number of these mosquitoes.
For more information about Zika, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Information adapted from Center for Disease Control and Prevention.