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Be Careful: Zika Virus

Traveling comes with any risk of contracting an unwanted illness. There’s a reason why you and me are supposed to get vaccinations and preventative medication for things like Malaria, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. Contracting any one of these can be a post-vacation buzz killer for sure. Now another virus is making headlines and it has even prompted travel alerts from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pam American Health Organization (PAHO).

No, I am not talking about Ebola. Though, if you are planning on traveling to Africa soon, you may want to check in and see where the Ebola outbreak stands. I am talking about the Zika virus. Like many illnesses, the Zika virus is spread to people through mosquitoes. The first alert for Zika virus was issued in May of last year. Since then, there have been several reports of travelers contracting the Zika virus. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Health officials are also looking into whether the virus is connected to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the following countries:
- Mexico
- Honduras
- Brazil
- Barbados
- Colombia
- Ecuador
- Guatemala
- Panama
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Martin
- Venezuela
- Paraguay
- Haiti
- Guyana

Unlike illnesses like Typhoid and Yellow Fever, there is no current vaccine for Zika virus. So if you are traveling to any of the countries listed above, you need to take some precautions. First, if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to avoid traveling to any of those countries for now. There have been tests that have linked Zika to a condition called microcephaly in newborns. If you still have your heart set on that baby moon in Puerto Rico, then you should talk to your healthcare provider. 

If you aren’t pregnant, and have plans to visit an International Vacation Home Exchange in Central or South America, be sure to pack some mosquito repellent; lots of mosquito repellent. Mosquitoes can carry other diseases, like Malaria and West Nile. In fact, the same species of mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus also spread dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. So be sure to spray mosquito repellent on your cloths and skin often. While at your vacation exchange, keep windows and doors shut. And wear long sleeves and pants (if weather permits).

So, should you be worried if you are traveling to an area with confirmed reports of Zika virus?  If you take the proper precautions, then you should be fine. Anytime you travel to a foreign country, you should always take measures to avoid contracting any illness. Before you head to the airport, you should talk to nurses and doctors at your local travel clinic. 

Thank you to travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla 

It is always good to take proper precautions to ensure you have the best possible vacation home exchange.   


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