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Where Does the Zika Virus Outbreak Stand?

By now, you have likely heard of the Zika Virus. We first posted about the Zika Virus in February. Here is the latest information about the virus.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of the virus a public health emergency. The virus is now believed to have cause almost 5,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil and other countries in LatinAmerica. Microcephaly is a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads. This is defiantly a concern for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. In fact, pregnant women are encouraged to postpone trips to areas that have confirmed cases of the Zika Virus.

Researchers are also trying to determine a correlation between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome. According to a report by the World Health Organization, eight countries have seen increases in Guillain-Barre since 2015. This neurological syndrome is rare, and causes your body’s immune system to attack your nerves.

Understandably, many people are concerned with traveling to areas where the Zika virus has been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued more travel advisories to regions that have confirmed cases of Zika Virus. And as the Northern Hemisphere approaches the spring and summer months, cases of the Zika virus will likely increase. If you recently booked your International Vacation Home Exchange, and have concerns about the Zika Virus, here are some facts for you to consider:

·         The Zika Virus is caused by a virus transmitted by a mosquito. It is NOT contagious
·         There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available
·         The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific
·         The symptoms from the Zika Virus include fever, rash, and joint pan
·         Only about 20% of people who are infected will show any kinds of symptoms
·         Deaths from the Zika Virus are extremely rare

So should you cancel your upcoming trip to Mexico? Or should you avoid traveling to areas that have cases of Zika Virus? If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, this is certainly a discussion to have with your physician. If this is not the case, then you will likely be fine. Here’s the thing, there will always be a risk of contracting a virus no matter where you travel. Zika is not the exception by any means. However, you should certainly take measures to protect yourself and your family.

Here are some tips on how to do it:

·         Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window or door screens. Your vacation home exchange will likely have all of the above.

·         Use insect and mosquito repellents and reapply as directed. If you have kids, be sure to check with their pediatrician about the use of insect repellents.

·         Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. And be sure to wear light-colored clothing. Researchers believe mosquitos are more attracted to dark colors. And yes, you need to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants even during the day. The mosquitos that spread the virus are more likely to bite during the daytime hours.

·         Avoid the use of scented skin care products. These products can attract mosquitos.

The abovementioned measures also apply if you are traveling to areas that may not necessarily have cases of the Zika Virus. Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the West Nile Virus are also caused by mosquitos.

If you have concerns about the Zika Virus, be sure to discuss these concerns with your physician. If you have questions regarding your vacation home exchange, be sure to contact an IVHEcoordinator.  

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla
The above is only a short overview – you should always consult with your doctor on health issues.  IVHE does not take responsibility for the accuracy of this article or subsequent actions taken by any travelers.


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