(Salt Lake City, UT) – While mosquito season has wrapped up in Utah and most other states that experience freezing temperatures in the winter, active Zika virus transmission is still occurring in many areas around the world. If you’re planning on leaving the snow and cold weather behind for the holiday season, Utah public health officials encourage you to thoroughly research the area you’re planning to visit. And, a good place to start is with information available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The CDC maintains a list of the countries with active Zika transmission at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.
“We are receiving calls from people going on cruises to the Caribbean wondering about Zika,” said Julia Robertson, with the Utah Department of Health. “People need to remember that Zika is still active in the Caribbean and other parts of the world and need to prepare for those trips accordingly if they chose to travel to those areas,” added Robertson.
Zika virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). Travelers heading to warmer climates where those mosquitoes continue to be very active are encouraged to pack accordingly to prevent mosquito bites. Pack clothing that will protect you from mosquito bites including, long-sleeved shirts and long pants sprayed with permethrin, enough EPA-approved insect repellent with DEET for everyone travelling to last your entire trip, and condoms to protect you and your partner.
Most people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. But a pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus that can result in severe birth defects, such as microcephaly (small head and brain) and other severe brain defects that may lead to long-term developmental problems. Infection during pregnancy can also increase the chance for miscarriage, eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.
It is not yet known how often Zika infected pregnancies will result in problems. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, and no specific medical treatment for those who are infected.
The CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups:
- Women who are pregnant: If you or your partner live in or have traveled to a Zika-affected area, either use condoms (or other barriers to prevent infection) or do not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during your pregnancy.
- Women who are trying to become pregnant: Before you or your partner travel to or after returning from a Zika-affected area, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection. If you have had possible exposure through recent travel or unprotected sex with a partner infected with Zika virus: Zika symptoms – Wait at least 6 months after your symptoms start before trying to get pregnant. No Zika symptoms – Wait at least 8 weeks after you may have been exposed to Zika before trying to get pregnant.
For women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant and have questions about Zika virus, contact the MotherToBaby program at 1-800-822-2229, text 855-999-3525, chat live or email www.MotherToBaby.org, or visit http://health.utah.gov/zika.