Zika Virus: Health agencies issue travel alert for Central and South America and the Caribbean



In a recent media release, CDC warned travelers to protect themselves from mosquito bites due to transmission of Zika virus. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) also issued a similar travel advisory (PDF).

Currently, there are “reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.” Zika virus transmission has also been reported in other countries in Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean.

According to CDC, “additional studies are needed…to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.”

CDPH also explains that “until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends special travel precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:

  • Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Pregnant women who traveled to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission during pregnancy should be evaluated for Zika virus infection if they had any symptoms suggestive of Zika or if their baby has evidence of microcephaly or brain calcifications. Dengue and chikungunya virus infection should be ruled out in these patients.”

The Aedes mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus can also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses by biting people.

If a Los Angeles traveler infected with dengue or chikungunya returns to parts of SoCal that has the Aedes mosquitoes, the community is at a higher risk of experiencing a dengue or chikungunya outbreak.

Bottom line: Prevent mosquito bites, whether you’re at home or traveling abroad.

What is Zika Virus?

Zika is an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus, which is transmitted to people by Aedes mosquitoes. Most infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms develop, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain, and/or red eyes. Symptoms usually begin 3-7 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito and last several days to a week. The illness is usually mild, and severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. There is no specific treatment for Zika virus disease. The only treatment option available is the provision of supportive care including rest, fluids, and use of analgesics and antipyretics.”