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Preventing Zika While Traveling

If you've paid any attention to headlines in the past few months, you've probably heard of the Zika virus. Outbreaks are occurring in many countries and territories, and the virus will continue to spread. Although it will be difficult to determine how and where it will spread over time, the Zika virus is easily prevented by taking certain measures.

What is Zika?

Zika is a virus spread primarily by infected mosquitoes, though it can also be transmitted sexually by males to their partners and passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

Zika may cause symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. An illness from Zika is typically mild, with the symptoms usually lasting only several days to a week. Approximately 80 percent of people who have Zika will not show any symptoms. The virus can stay in the bloodstream for about a week, however, and anyone infected can pass the virus to others.

How do travelers prevent Zika?

There aren't any vaccines or medications for Zika, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out helpful prevention guidance. While it's particularly important to follow these guidelines when traveling to an area with active Zika transmission, remember to also follow the guidelines for three weeks after your return.

The mosquitos that transmit the Zika virus are aggressive daytime biters that can also bite at night. The best way to prevent Zika, therefore, is to prevent mosquito bites by using EPA-registered insect repellent; wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; staying in places with air conditioning or places with window and door screens; and removing standing water around your home.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects, such as microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. It is important that pregnant women don't travel to areas with outbreaks of Zika. If a pregnant woman must travel to one of the areas, it is vital she talk to her healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.

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