The Zika virus – What you need to know

There has been a lot of (what some might say are) sensationalist articles in the media recently about the spread of the Zika virus, and people who are planning their next adventure to South and Central America are rightly worried about the risks associated with travelling to this region.

Here is what you need to know:

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. The same mosquito also transmits 3 other more common (and more serious) vector-borne diseases — dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever – across tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

What are the symptoms of Zika virus disease?

Zika virus usually causes only a 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, a much smaller percentage may also get conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and feel tired. The symptoms usually finish with people making a full recovery in 2 to 7 days.

Should pregnant women be concerned about Zika?

Health authorities are currently investigating a potential link between Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in their babies. Until more is known, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take extra care to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

If you are pregnant and suspect that you may have Zika virus disease, consult your doctor for close monitoring during your pregnancy.

Microcephaly is a rare condition where a baby has an abnormally small head. This is due to abnormal brain development of the baby in the womb or during infancy. Babies and children with microcephaly often have challenges with their brain development as they grow older.

Microcephaly can be caused by a variety of environmental and genetic factors such as Downs syndrome; exposure to drugs, alcohol or other toxins in the womb; and rubella infection during pregnancy.

How is Zika virus disease treated?

The symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest and plenty of water. If symptoms worsen, people should seek medical advice. There is currently no cure or vaccine for the disease itself.  These treatments will be easily covered by your own travel insurance or the travel insurance that we include in your trip with us, free of charge.  Please ask us for more information on this.

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.

Should I avoid travelling to areas where Zika virus is occurring?

No – Based on available evidence, The World Health Organisation is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions related to Zika virus disease. As a precautionary measure, some national governments have made public health and travel recommendations to their own populations, based on their assessments of the available evidence and local risk factors.

Travellers should stay informed about Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases and consult their local health or travel authorities if they are concerned.

To protect against Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, everyone should avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by taking the measures described above. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should follow this advice, and may also consult their local health authorities if travelling to an area with an ongoing Zika virus outbreak.

What steps are Escaped to Latin America taking?

Whilst this virus poses no real risk to most people, we fully understand that our customers are worried about the potential risks involved, however minimal.

With this in mind we can offer free basic travel insurance with some of our tours and clients should ask us where this is open to them. As our terms and conditions state this is not a substitute for full cover travel insurance, and we still recommend that our customers take out a separate travel insurance policy.

In Brazil some staff and partners have had training to help them identify possible symptoms as quickly as possible and contingency plans have been made to ensure that our customers get the treatment they may need as quickly as possible.

Further information:

The World Health Organisation Zika Fact Page

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Zika Fact Page

Columbia – Ministry of Health Announcement

Peru – Ministry of Tourism announcement

Ecuador – Ministry of Tourism Fact Page (auto translated)

Please check back on this webpage periodically for further information, we will update it as we receive new information.
Last update: Feb 12, 2016 @ 15:25

Travel Ace coverage update: Aug 23 @ 17.00