Zika outbreaks continue in vacation spots

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2016

If your Black Friday plans include booking travel to a warm-weather destination, health officials remind you to take precautions if your plans include areas where the Zika virus is circulating, according to a press release.

Since early 2016, Zika outbreaks have been reported in many popular vacation destinations throughout South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and parts of Florida. In many areas, these outbreaks are still occurring, and people who travel to these destinations are at risk of becoming infected with Zika. Pregnant women and couples contemplating pregnancy should avoid these areas altogether until the outbreaks are over.

For Minnesotans who travel to Zika outbreak areas, avoiding mosquito bites is important. The mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are found in urban areas β€” including in homes β€” and bite during the day. To avoid mosquito bites, travelers should:

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Use the same mosquito repellents they use in Minnesota, especially those containing the active ingredients of DEET or permethrin, and re-apply according to the label instructions.

Wear loose-fitting, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants.

If possible, consider staying in rooms with screened windows or air conditioning to help limit contact with mosquitoes.

The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through mosquito bites. While most people fight off the virus without becoming ill, some will develop symptoms like fever, rash, joint aches and eye redness. In some cases, severe birth defects have been reported in infants born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy.

In addition to bites from infected mosquitoes, the virus has also been transmitted to women through sex, an important consideration for pregnant women and their partners who may travel.

β€œThe most important thing is to keep Zika virus away from the developing fetus, whether by not traveling or by using condoms or avoiding sex during pregnancy if your partner has traveled,” said David Neitzel, a mosquito disease specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health.

If you have traveled recently to a Zika-affected area and are pregnant or considering pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about your situation.

To date in 2016, 57 cases of Zika virus infection (36 female, 21 male) have been reported in Minnesota residents. Five of the cases occurred in pregnant women. Of those who have given birth, no apparent defects have been reported.

For the most up-to-date information on the Zika virus as well as updated lists of current risk areas, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.