You would have to be living under a rock to have NOT heard about the Zika virus that is being blamed for causing birth abnormalities in pregnant women. Is this truly a worldwide medical emergency OR media hype? I seem to remember a lot of media coverage of Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and the Ebola Virus over the past few years. Every time something comes along the media makes you feel like it is inevitable that you and everyone else in the world is doomed.
The first thing one must do is arm themselves with the facts as they are currently known. What is right for one person may not be right for another. It is your obligation to get the facts and decide for yourself. As of today there have been NO travel restrictions announced by the US government. Quite frankly, Zika can be transmitted by mosquitoes right here in the USA too. Here is an abbreviated rundown of information from WHO (World Health Organization):
Where does Zika virus occur? - Zika virus occurs in tropical areas with large mosquito populations, and is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Southern Asia and Western Pacific.
How do people catch Zika virus? - People catch Zika virus by being bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito – the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
What are the symptoms of Zika virus disease? - Zika virus usually causes mild illness; with symptoms appearing a few days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people with Zika virus disease will get a slight fever and rash. Others may also get conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and feel tired. The symptoms usually finish in 2 to 7 days.
What might be the potential complications of Zika virus? - Because no large outbreaks of Zika virus were recorded before 2007, little is currently known about the complications of the disease.
During the first outbreak of Zika from 2013 - 2014 in French Polynesia, which also coincided with an ongoing outbreak of dengue, national health authorities reported an unusual increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome. Retrospective investigations into this effect are ongoing, including the potential role of Zika virus and other possible factors. A similar observation of increased Guillain-Barré syndrome was also made in 2015 in the context of the first Zika virus outbreak in Brazil.
In 2015, local health authorities in Brazil also observed an increase in babies born with microcephaly at the same time of an outbreak of Zika virus. Health authorities and agencies are now investigating the potential connection between microcephaly and Zika virus, in addition to other possible causes. However more investigation and research is needed before we will be able to better understand any possible link.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system. It can be caused by a number of viruses and can affect people of any age. Exactly what triggers the syndrome is not known. The main symptoms include muscular weakness and tingling in the arms and legs. Severe complications can occur if the respiratory muscles are affected, requiring hospitalisation. Most people affected by Guillain-Barré syndrome will recover, although some may continue to experience effects such as weakness.
What can I do to protect myself? - The best protection from Zika virus is preventing mosquito bites. Preventing mosquito bites will protect people from Zika virus, as well as other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes such as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold even small amounts of water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.
MORE information can be seen in the links below from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization).
CDC Zika info - http://www.cdc.gov/zika/_
WHO Zika info - http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/
The main point is that we should all be alert and prevent mosquito bites no matter where we are. Please do not allow the media hype overcome plain common sense. If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, please consult with a doctor about the best way to protect yourself and your unborn baby. As for myself, I will continue to travel throughout the USA, Mexico and the Caribbean as usual along with my usual insect repellent wipes and sprays.