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What you need to know about Zika Virus When Traveling

How is Zika Virus spread? It is spread by the two types of Aedes mosquito, which is known to exist in southern and eastern parts of the United States.  (see map) The Aedes mosquito has not been detected in Wisconsin.  It can also be spread from person to person thru sexual contact.

 zika map blue  zika map green

 

Estimated range of Aedes aegypti (left) and Aedes Albopictus (right)mosquito (Source:  CDC)

The Aedes aegypti is the primary species that transmits the virus, the Albopictus species is less likely to spread the virus, but could.  Here is a link for foreign countries and US Territories that have known Zika transmission:

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information

How many people in the above states will get Zika virus?  It is hard to predict how many people could become infected in the above areas; efforts are underway to reduce those risks, and educate people on how to protect themselves.

What are the risks if someone has Zika virus:  The biggest risks are for women who are pregnant, or could become pregnant.  Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect that affects an infant’s brain function.  Zika virus can be transmitted from a mother to a baby during pregnancy.  Women could become infected from a mosquito bite or thru sexual contact with an infected partner. 

What are the symptoms of Zika virus:  The virus typically causes relatively mild symptoms - fever, headache, skin rash, red eyes and muscle aches. Symptoms usually clear up within a few days. In fact, many people who are infected have no symptoms, but could still spread the illness to a partner through sexual contact.  There is no vaccine or specific drug to treat this virus.

 

What can people do to protect themselves from Zika virus?

Outdoors

  • Cover up. Wearing long sleeves and pants makes it more difficult for insects to bite. Pants can also be tucked into socks for added protection.
  • Apply bug spray. DEET effectively repels both mosquitoes and ticks. Permethrin works, too, but may only be applied to clothes. Picaridin is another bug repellent, but only protects against mosquitoes.
    • Always follow the product label instructions.

      • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
      • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
      • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.

    • Stay indoors at times when mosquito activity is high.  The Aedes mosquito tends to be active during the daytime. 
    •  

      Interior

  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • If you are pregnant

    • Avoid traveling to Zika affected areas.If you must travel, talk with your provider, and be diligent in your efforts to prevent being exposed to mosquitoes.
    • Until more is known, pregnant women with male sex partners who have lived in or traveled to an area with Zika virus should either use a condom every time they have sex or not have sex during the pregnancy.
    • Women trying to get pregnant and their male partners should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider before traveling to areas with Zika. Because sexual transmission is possible, both men and women should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

    What should someone do if they think they have Zika virus: Manage the symptoms, using over the counter medicines like Tylenol or Ibuprofen.  You can contact your doctor about being tested; be sure to tell them you’ve travelled to an area where the Zika virus does (or could exist).

    To learn more about mosquito bite protection, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at:  http://www.cdc.gov/Features/stopmosquitoes/index.html