Every time we decide to walk out our front door, we’re taking a risk. Seasoned travelers know this. They also know that in most cases, the risks pale in comparison to all there is to gain from getting out and seeing the wide world.
That said, your best defense is the best information. Here’s a brief rundown of what we know, where you can go to get the latest info, and how you can keep yourself healthy while traveling.
What we know
Zika is a virus that is contracted through Aedes mosquito bites, and it can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. Other than mother-to-fetus in utero, it is not spread by human-to-human contact. Mosquitoes are the transmitters. During the first week of being infected, the virus can be found in that person’s blood; if a mosquito bites the infected person, the mosquito can then spread it to another person via another bite. (For details on transmission and prevention, read the CDC’s latest info here or the World Health Organization’s here.)
There currently is concern about the affect of Zika on the fetuses of pregnant women. While much is still unknown about the possible affects of Zika on unborn babies, here is what the CDC is currently recommending for pregnant women in any trimester who in or are considering traveling to areas affected by Zika. If you are pregnant and have travel plans, be sure to talk to your physician.
There currently is no vaccine for the Zika virus. Symptoms are usually flu-like — fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) — and may last a week or more. Most people who are infected never even have symptoms. The virus stays active in the bloodstream for about a week, sometimes longer, before a person is no longer contagious (via mosquito bite transmission). Hospitalizations and death are extremely rare.
Where to get the best information about Zika and travel
It’s common for news sources to create elevated levels of panic around outbreaks like these. Your best bet is to have reliable, medically-based sources to go to in order to get the most clear, scientifically-backed, and up-to-date information possible.
For specific travel notices regarding areas of the world where Zika has been found, here are the latest CDC travel updates. In addition, you can check the U.S. State Department or the Public Health Agency of Canada for current information.
As your travel consultant, I am always here to advise you if you have any concerns about upcoming trips we are planning for you. I stay up to date on the most current information and can also reach out to your destination resort and ask what the plan is to avoid any incidents while on property.
How to stay healthy while traveling abroad
Before any trip, it is of course necessary to get a medical checkup and receive any required vaccines. If you take medications, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. And if you need any special accommodations — wheelchair access, for example — be sure to tell your travel agent so he or she can alert the staff at your destination(s) to ensure you get the best care possible.
In addition, if you want to have a resource in place to cover any emergencies or unexpected medical expenses, it’s a great idea to purchase travel insurance. Depending on the plan, insurance can pay for doctor’s visits and any necessary medications while traveling.
As always, look to level-headed sources for your information. Check the numbers. Often, the total infections pale in comparison to the millions of people that travel every day. Assess the real risk, and make an informed decision from there.