Quaint, uncrowded seaside villages. Tranquil azure seas lapping softly on a white sand beach. Palms gently swaying in the breeze. These are the images many see when planning a mid-winter escape from the icy wrath of a northern winter.
This is the life my brother leads, and has, for the past five or six years. Every Fall he packs his bags and heads for destinations “warm”.
This Winter it’s Panama. Oh, he comes back every Summer, but we joke that he hasn’t seen a snowflake in so long, he’s no longer Canadian!
Ideal life, right? Well, it seems this year, there is trouble in paradise.
Photo credit: naturegirl 78 via VisualHunt / CC BY
I am sure you have all seen the recent news reports about the spread of and the health effects associated with the Zika virus. At present, there is active Zika virus transmission in over thirty countries, primarily in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
I thought this was a “new” virus and was surprised to learn it has been around since at least the 1940’s, where it was first identified in Uganda.
Spread by the Aedes mosquito, there is no vaccine for this virus.
For most, the symptoms are relatively mild, ranging from fever, rash, joint pain, headache to conjunctivitis (pink eye).
For pregnant women, and women who are thinking about becoming pregnant, the situation is entirely different. The virus has been associated with a higher than normal occurrence of microcephaly in babies of mothers who had the Zika virus.
Microcephaly is a birth defect characterized by a smaller head size compared to other babies of the same age and sex. Babies with this condition often have smaller brains that are not fully developed.
What can be done to avoid or, at least, limit the spread of this virus?
- For pregnant women, in any trimester, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Women who are considering becoming pregnant should consult their healthcare provider before travelling to these areas.
If you do travel to these countries take the following steps to avoid contracting the Zika virus:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in accommodations with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
- Sleep under mosquito netting.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended insect repellents, being careful to follow label instructions.
- If you are using sunscreen, apply it to your skin before you apply the insect repellent.
- If you have the Zika virus it’s important to avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness. The virus can be spread to others by mosquitos that are carrying your blood.
- Recent news suggests the virus may be transmitted via sexual activity. Take the necessary precautions if your partner may have been exposed to the Zika virus.
Until more is know about this virus, if you are pregnant or considering pregnancy you may want to reconsider travel plans to affected areas.
I say, better safe than sorry.
Would you take a chance or cancel/reschedule your plans to travel to an area affected by the Zika Virus?