International news have been awash about the Zika virus in the last two weeks, and although articles have been mentioning Brazil almost exclusively, it may surprise you to hear that cases have been reported in North America, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Region. It’s easy to get swept away with angst and worry whenever news of a ‘new outbreak of disease’ hits the news, yet it pays to keep a cool head and see everything in perspective.
First of all, let’s get some pivotal info out of the way. Are you planning to travel to South or Central America, and are worried about the Zika virus?
Here’s what you need to know:
What is Zika and how is it transmitted?
Much like malaria, dengue and other tropical diseases, the Zika virus is transmitted via infected mosquito bites. Zika virus is the disease, Zika fever is what you get if you’re infected. The medical world has known about it for more than 70 years, ever since it emerged from the depths of a Ugandan jungle, and it is known as a mild illness with no reported cases of fatalities and even severe malaise is quite rare.
What are the symptoms?
Very similar to dengue, only milder, Zika fever is characterised by a slight fever, mild rash, joint pains, headaches and (for some) a hint of conjunctivitis. These symptoms seem to last between two days and a week, at most, and are treated by bed rest, lots of rehydrating fluids and paracetamol to control fever and joint aches. Experts do not recommend taking anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin.
Zika & pregnancy
Zika fever seems to be particularly noxious to pregnant women who are infected in the first trimester of their pregnancy. The latest news headlines about children born with microcephaly (or shrunken head syndrome) were all children born to women who had the virus over 6 months ago. HOWEVER, do note that in the medical field, the jury is still out as to whether or not Zika fever is the only culprit of the latest microcephaly cases. This is not a brand new virus as such (outbreaks in French Polynesia date back almost a decade as well) so much research is still being carried out to discount other possibilities. So far, authorities are advising pregnant women to ‘practice enhanced precautions’ when travelling to affected areas.
How can you prevent infection?
Although a vaccine or prophylaxis have yet to be found, taking precautions against bites by using repellent spray or creams, and covering up at sunrise and sunset, will go a long way in preventing any infection. When travelling to mosquito-brimming destinations, this is something you ought to be doing anyway, as the amount of diseases spread by the nasty biters are quite a few. Be absolutely scrupulous about preventing bites, and you’ll dramatically decrease your chances of infection. Check out this nifty insect bite protection guide.
Should you cancel your travel plans?
According to the World Health Organization, Zika fever is something you only ought to worry about if you’re pregnant. Otherwise, it is a much milder mosquito-borne disease than either malaria or dengue and, dare we say, about as much of a threat to your trip as a bad case of gastro or a nasty flu. If you are in your first trimester of pregnancy, or are considering becoming pregnant, then do chat about it with your trusted doctor to asses any risks.
An important fact to note is the Zika mosquito cannot survive at an altitude over 2200m/7217ft above the sea.
Here’s a map of countries where Zika virus cases have been reported:
And check the online map, which is updated regularly.
Will your insurance policy cover you if you still travel?
The general consensus is that if you are travelling now, or about to travel and booked your trip months ago, insurance policies should cover any Zika-fever eventualities, considering the latest outbreak is brand new. The same cannot be said if you book in a few months, however, and the outbreak worsens. The best course of action, and what we recommend, is that you contact your travel insurance company should you have any concerns about your upcoming trip.
Want to know more?
Check out the World Health Organization Homepage for more details.
Travel with Chimu Adventures
Alarmist news stories notwithstanding, we at Chimu Adventures are as confident as ever that all our trips will continue to be hassle free and all our clients return home with only amazing memories and outstanding stories, as lingering souvenirs. As always, we take our guests’ health, happiness and wellbeing to heart and will do our utmost to keep you safe and free of dangers. Yes, we may just nag you to ‘tuck that shirt in!’ or ‘spray those ankles!’ because that’s just the kind of mother-geese we are ;) but we believe that the Zika virus poses an ultra-minimal risk to our trips and continue our ‘business as usual’ of providing unforgettable adventures to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring places.
So if you’re about to travel and join us on one of our amazing journeys through the magical countries of Central or South America, c’mon down! We’ll be there to meet you! With a can of mosquito repellent in hand…