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Zika Virus in South America
There is a lot of current attention in the media about the Zika virus in South America, especially Brazil. As we are getting a few questions about it from concerned travellers, we thought we would address the issue.
What is the Zika Virus?
Zika is an acute viral infliction, primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. It is mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions and symptoms generally last 2 to 7 days. Chronic forms of the disease are not reported and symptoms usually appear a few days after being bitten. Symptoms suffered are generally akin to mild-flu like symptoms, such as a slight intermittent fever, and muscle/joint pain, a general feeling of tiredness, plus conjunctivitis is sometimes experienced. Treatment for the virus is usually with common pain and fever medicines, along with rest and plenty of water. It also should be noted that many of those infected do not experience many symptoms at all.
What should you be doing to avoid Zika while travelling?
Like such viruses as Malaria and Dengue, the best protection is avoiding mosquito bites. While travelling, keep reminding yourself to apply insect repellents, and those containing deet are recommended. Mosquitos are less attracted to light-coloured clothing and you should covers as much of your body as possible. Best to choose accommodation with physical barriers such as regular or mesh screens. There are also less mosquitos if you travel during winter months.
Should pregnant women travel to infected areas?
No, because Zika has been proven to cause brain malformations and disorders in babies born to women who contracted the virus while pregnant. But there is no cause for alarm in relation to future pregnancy if non-pregnant women should contract the virus.
Should Zika stop you from travelling?
Zika is now recorded in up to 60 countries and many people will find themselves needing to travel between some of these affected countries at some point. Unless pregnant, then the Zika risk is no worse than travelling in areas with Malaria or Dengue. Although it is possible to come across the Aedes mosquito in South America, most travellers will pass through the countries without being affected. Just be diligent with your mosquito protection which will greatly reduce the likeliness of contracting Zika.
Many of the above facts were sourced from this page: http://www.who.int/features/qa/zika/en/
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