How to Prevent Zika while Traveling

Prevention is the best defense against Zika

Crystal Cherico, RN, Travel Clinic Director discusses how to prevent Zika while traveling. The Zika virus is a virus that is transmitted by a day-time biting mosquito. It’s in a family of viruses that can cause an array of symptoms. Most of the times Zika causes high fever, some joint paint, flu-like symptom. The reason it’s garnered such national attention is because of the link to a birth-defect if pregnant women are infected. Children generally display the same symptoms but can become more severe if they become dehydrated due to fever.

How is Zika transmitted?

It’s primary transmission route is through a mosquito bite. So if you’re bit by an infected mosquito it will take a few days for the symptoms to appear, that virus will stay in your blood for about 5-7 days. It is also able to be transmitted through sex and blood transfusions but those are rare. For women, it’s only in the blood stream for 5-7 days. For men, it can last longer in the genitourinary tract; Some studies have shown the virus persists for 3 months and there are continuing studies to confirm how long the virus is present.

Are there special precautions for pregnant travelers?

If you are a pregnant traveler, we always advise to delay to cancel travel to Zika-infected areas. For standard travelers, practice insect precautions. That means, covering up as much of your body as possible with clothing. They sell insect-repellent clothing which is a good idea. We also want you to cover any exposed body areas with an insect repellent that is proven to help ward off the mosquitoes that carry these diseases. All insect-repellents can be applied beginning at 6 months and older and it’s safe to use in pregnancy. Before 6 months, we recommend people practice strict insect precautions for infants.

Is there a vaccine for Zika?*

There is not a vaccine for Zika. It’s symptomatic support. Most people get mild flu-like symptoms that can be treated at home with over the counter medications. People who have more severe symptoms and get dehydrated may need to seek medical treatment.

What can I use to prevent mosquito bites?

According to a recent Consumer Report study, the product that was the number one rated insect-repellent was Sawyer’s branded ‘Fisherman’s Formula’ with 20% Picaridin. It is a Picaridin based insect repellent versus Deet or lemongrass repellant. Picaridin is proven to help ward off mosquitoes for 8 hours at a 20% concentration. The Sawyers has a pleasant smell and is gentle on the skin. We always tell our travelers 6-8 hours but if you shower or swim or sweat profusely, you do need to re-apply. Just make sure you’re wearing your insect-repellent. Practice good insect precautions.

Sawyer Fisherman's Formula, Zika prevention, The Austin Diagnostic Clinic