What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne virus with origins dating back to the mid-40s in Uganda, Africa. While the disease was first found to be only in monkeys, it was quickly found to have infected humans just five years later in 1952. Today, outbreaks of the virus have been found all around the world. The same mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, also transmit dengue and yellow fever.
Recently, there have been a couple of cases of the virus being transmitted sexually between humans but these are still being studied and confirmed.
While it is unclear how long the incubation period is exactly, it is probably between 2-7 days. Those who have suffered infection may experience mild symptoms that resemble the flu, like a fever, muscle pain, joint pain, rashes on the skin and a headache.
How to Prevent Infection
While traveling or home, be sure to eliminate mosquito breeding sites. It is of the utmost importance to remove buckets, pots, drums or any other container storing water. Mosquitoes are drawn to standing pools of water and will gather there.
Each individual should take every precaution necessary to avoid being infected. Use bug repellent according to bottle instructions, wear loose-fitting clothing that is a light color, use mosquito nets, window screens and ensure all windows and doors remain closed.
What to Do if Infected
While most cases are mild, those infected with the virus should seek medical attention. There are a number of reasons for this. This virus can only be diagnosed using laboratory testing. Although there is not a vaccine available today, there are over-the-counter drugs which can minimize the symptoms.
Other Helpful Tips
There has been an unbelievable surge in the purchase of travel insurance since these recent outbreaks. Concerned travelers are opting for policies with a “cancel for any reason” upgrade that allows them to cancel their trip for any reason at all since CDC warnings aren’t typically included as covered reasons under standard trip cancellation coverage. If you contract the virus while traveling, the medical (and evacuation in severe situations) benefits could cover you.
While travel insurance is helpful and adds a sense of security, those traveling while pregnant may want to consider avoiding travel completely. The virus has been linked to birth defects in newborns in areas like French Polynesian Islands and Brazil.
Information can change quickly, so please monitor sources for continued updates.