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Traveling Awareness in Zika and Mosquito Destinations

By Alexis Sawyer, M.D.

While visiting friends and family in Zika prone areas, it is important to learn about mosquito avoidance and mosquito bite prevention. With the Zika virus in the news constantly, many ask what is it and what should we know? Boys Town Pediatrics discusses prevention to protect your family.

Zika Awareness and Symptoms

The Zika virus spreads through an infected mosquito bite and can pass from an infected person through sexual intercourse. Symptoms are usually mild and last for a few days to a week after being bitten or infected.

Many people who get infected never have symptoms. Common symptoms include a fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. While many infected people have mild symptoms, the infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is working with the international public health partners and with state and local health departments to:

  • Alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika.
  • Post travel notices and other travel-related guidance.
  • Provide state health laboratories with diagnostic tests.
  • Monitor and report cases to improve understanding of how and where Zika is spreading.

While no local mosquito-born Zika cases have been reported in the United States, lab tests have confirmed cases of the Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States. With recent outbreaks among travelers increasing, the CDC advises that pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant not travel to areas where Zika is virus is found.

Prevent Mosquito Bites

  • Stay in screened houses and air conditioned rooms whenever possible. Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors. Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old. Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a hat and shoes.
  • Use insect repellents that contain up to 30% DEET and always use as directed. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label. Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children older than 2 months of age.

Before your trip, check www.CDC.gov/travel​ for the latest disease and prevention updates.