Zika Update for Summer 2017: All the Latest You Need to Know Before Booking Your Travel

Zika Update for Summer 2017: All the Latest You Need to Know Before Booking Your Travel

Yes, it's still a threat.

By Lindsay Tigar

It was right around this time last year that warnings began swirling about the Zika virus. Potentially dangerous for pregnant women or those who intend to get pregnant, the mosquito-borne illness that comes with a risk of birth defects scrambled travel plans as it proliferated swiftly around the globe. But where do we stand now? Here's the latest you need to know before booking that sunshine-filled beach trip:

First, a refresher: What is the Zika virus?

Los Angeles-based OB/GYN, Dr. Yvonne Bohn explains that Zika is a virus that’s carried by Aedes mosquitoes, which are known to bite during the day, instead of the night, unlike other bugs in their family. While Zika only started trending in the news last summer, the first discovery of the virus was actually in 1947 where it originated from the Zika Forest in Uganda. It remained pretty tame until 2016, where reports of bites in Mexico, South and Central America, and some U.S. states like Florida started popping up.

How do you get Zika?

By those pesky mosquitoes. Anyone who comes in contact with a Zika-infested bug has a 20 percent chance of getting infected and experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to Dr. Bohn. Though treatment is pretty simple — fluids, rest and Tylenol — it’s a whole other ballgame if you're pregnant. “Unfortunately, if a woman is pregnant and gets infected, there is the possibility that the virus can get transmitted to the developing fetus and cause a very severe birth defect called microcephaly,” Dr. Bohn says.

Is Zika still a threat?

One big, important word: absolutely. And even if you aren’t in the mindset of babies and strollers right now, it's best to avoid exposure if you can. Dr. Bohn says that not only is it still a threat to consider, but that it’s continuing to spread. “From 2016 to current, more cases of Zika infection and have been seen in Cuba, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Tahiti. Zika has been found in certain counties in Miami as well as Brownsville, Texas,” she explains. Men who are impacted by this disease should wait at least six months before trying to conceive, since the virus can be passed via sperm to a fetus.

Are some countries safer than others?

When you’re considering your getaways in the coming months, check out the Center for Disease Control’s continuously updated guide to Zika. It lists countries where Zika has been reported and residents or visitors have been infected. The official recommendation — from the CDC and from Dr. Bohn — is to avoid those countries if you’re sporting a baby bump, or would like to be in the next three to six months.

Though Dr. Bohn says it’s impossible to know if one country is safer than others, she did note that when an outbreak occurred in Miami last year, officials reacted by spraying all of the areas of infection to stop further cases. 

If you’re traveling to areas with a risk of Zika...

In some cases, you can just plan your vacation around a Zika-free destination. But sometimes, a visit can’t be avoided — and if that’s the case for you, try your best to pack items that’ll minimize your chances of being bitten. Consider wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs, and invest in a few mosquito fighting products, like BugBand TowelettesRocky Mountain Oils’ Bug Off! Essential Oil Blend, and Skincando Combat Ready Bug Repellant (which was first used by U.S. troops overseas to fight mosquitos, sand fleas, and other threats.)

If you are pregnant, DEET is a pregnancy-safe formula, according to Dr. Bohn and can be used preventively. Other products that ward off mosquitoes with or without deet, can be used, too — just talk to your OB/GYN before purchasing.

And consider these last facts: A woman who is pregnant has been in a high-risk area and bitten by a mosquito can be tested for Zika exposure. There is no treatment for Zika virus and no way to prevent bad outcomes in the baby. A woman can have ultrasounds of the baby to look for microcephaly... but there is no way to treat it.

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