The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been featured in media reports recently, with ongoing monitoring and health advisements from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the governments of affected countries. The situation is still developing, which is why there are frequent updates and changes to these advisements and to the lists of impacted areas.
General travel guidance
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. The CDC has issued a level 2 travel alert – Practice Enhanced Precautions – regarding the Zika virus due to its potential association with birth defects. Although knowledge about Zika virus is evolving, at this time the virus appears to be associated with microcephaly (small head and brain in newborns) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in women infected during pregnancy.
The major concern involves infection and illness during pregnancy, and the CDC has issued interim guidance for pregnant women, or those who are planning to become pregnant, who have visited Zika-impacted areas.
Outside of pregnancy, Zika virus disease otherwise is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. Symptoms appear in approximately 1 out of 5 infected people and can include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headache.
Pregnant women, and women who are considering becoming pregnant, who must travel to one of these areas should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling.
Travelers who are pregnant, or are planning pregnancy and returning from a country reporting Zika, should contact their physician for counseling.