While creating unforgettable experiences in some of the world’s most amazing destinations is at the heart of Austin Adventures, we are, above all, 100-percent dedicated to ensuring your health and safety as far as it’s in our control.
But we’re also here to tell you that, in light of the Zika epidemic, don’t set adventure aside! Simply stay informed, use common sense, and seek up-to-date information from government agencies and medical professionals. And to help you intelligently choose your next trip-of-a-lifetime, we’ve compiled this Zika Q&A:
- What is Zika?
Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and is a virus primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes-genus mosquito. These water-loving mozzies thrive in tropical, subtropical, and some temperate climates and are also the spreaders of dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Zika can also be contracted through sexual encounters with partners who have the virus. A pregnant woman is also capable of passing the virus to her fetus.
- Where is Zika found?
Zika-infested mosquitoes breed in moist environments typically below 6,500-feet above sea level. For instance, while Peru’s lowlands and Amazonian rainforests are under a travel advisory for the Zika virus, Zika has not been found in Machu Picchu (8,000-feet above sea level) as of August 8, 2016.
As far as Austin Adventures destinations are concerned, the Aedes aegypti species is found in tropical regions, like Panama, Nicaragua, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Cuba. Chile and Argentina are also on the CDC’s list of countries with active Zika cases, but Patagonia’s rip-roaring winds keep mosquitoes at bay for the most part!
- Who is at risk of getting Zika?
Anyone bit by a Zika-infested Aedus-genus mosquito is at risk of contracting the Zika virus, according to the CDC. As well, anyone in sexual contact with an individual who has traveled to a Zika-prone region is at risk of contracting Zika.
Pregnant women and those considering pregnancy are advised to not travel to areas of on-going Zika virus transmissions, as adverse effects on babies born to mothers infected by the virus is very likely.
Pregnant women whose sexual partners travel to Zika outbreak areas should practice safer sex or abstain from sex throughout the duration of pregnancy in order to lessen the possibility for inflicting Zika on an unborn fetus.
- What’s the worst case scenario if Zika is contracted?
While scientists are still uncovering negative effects of Zika, the most widely-known diseases of Zika-inflicted persons are microcephaly in newborns and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in anyone else. Microcephaly is abnormal smallness of the head due to an underdeveloped brain, while GBS is a lesser-known neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis or death and is nondiscriminatory in who it inflicts.
“Guillain-Barré syndrome shouldn’t be that big of a concern for travelers,” says Dr. Alberto R. Zambrano, a professor of public health at Central University of Venezuela’s school of medicine in a recent interview with National Geographic. “For less than one percent of Zika cases lead to this complication.”
He adds that Zika is far less dangerous than other outbreaks like Ebola, SARS, or H1N1 (swine flu).
(For more from this highly-informative article, please visit: http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/05/what-travelers-need-to-know-about-the-zika-virus/)
- What are the symptoms of Zika?
Only one in five people show symptoms of Zika, and symptoms can last two to seven days, according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms are usually mild and can include a fever, skin rash that starts in the face, conjunctivitis (red eyes), joint pain, muscle pain in the hands and feet, and headaches behind the eyes.
Symptoms can be treated with common pain and fever medications, rest and plenty of water.
- How do I know if I have Zika?
If after traveling to a Zika-infested region and the aforementioned symptoms pop up, visit your local healthcare provider for laboratory testing to confirm the cause.
There are currently no vaccines for Zika.
- How can I prevent Zika?
While world health officials are busy trying to unravel this quickly-spreading epidemic, you can do your part by using common sense and staying informed about the virus. Consult your local health and travel authorities before visiting Zika-prone regions, and don’t lose sleep over this. Here is the CDC’s advice for preventing Zika when traveling to Zika-active areas:
– Before departure, consider purchasing permethrin-treated gear, such as boots, socks, and pants.
– Pack light-colored clothing that cover as much of the body as possible.
– Use EPA-approved repellents that contain DEET, IR3535 or icaridin according to the product label instructions.
– Window screens, closing windows and doors, and sleeping under a mosquito net – even while napping during the day – are also good steps to consider. Air-conditioning tends to keep mosquitoes away as well.
– The Aedes-genus mozzie is most active during the early morning, late-afternoon and early evening. Stay indoors during these times, if at all possible.
– To reduce the risk of potential pregnancy complications related to Zika, traveling partners of pregnant women should practice safer sex (using condoms) or abstain from sexual activity for at least eight weeks after their return from Zika-infested regions.
– If partners experience Zika-virus symptoms, they should consider abstinence for at least six months.
– Those planning to become pregnant should wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive if no symptoms of the Zika virus are present. Wait six months if one or both members of the couple are symptomatic.
– Even if you do not feel sick after returning from your trip, take these same steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks after your arrival back home, so you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes.
- If I’m traveling to a Zika-infested country, what should I prepare for?
If you’re in good health and not pregnant, there is no obvious medical reason for changing your Latin or South American travel plans, as long as you comply with the recommended preventative measures. Consider purchasing travel insurance for last-minute options. As well, many airlines are offering full refunds on cancelled or rerouted trips.
Pregnant women are strongly advised to not travel to places where the Zika outbreak is prevalent. If travel is imperative, then they should seek advice from their healthcare provider and strictly adhere to the prevention suggestions.
- Where could I go and be at less risk of getting Zika?
The world is still your oyster, so don’t be discouraged from booking that next epic adventure. Looking for your beach fix but the tropics aren’t quite so alluring suddenly? The Mediterranean beckons with Croatia’s crystalline coves, while the San Juan Islands provide the perfect reprieve stateside. Looking for a wildlife extravaganza and the Galapagos aren’t an option currently? Book a winter getaway to Yellowstone National Park or start planning that Alaskan cruise for next summer.
As always, our travel experts are standing by to talk through any further concerns or questions you may have. Feel free to give us a call anytime at 800.575.1540.