Zika: How to Stay Safe When Traveling or Living Abroad

Learn how to protect yourself.

Recently, we covered the basics about the Zika virus. Because so many of our members live or travel in areas with active Zika transmission, here’s what you need to know about Zika.

Zika is a virus that’s largely transmitted by mosquito bites. It may also be spread through unprotected sex and blood transfusions. While only 1 in 5 people with the virus display symptoms (including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes), there is also a rare risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can result in paralysis, and microcephaly, a condition that causes brain damage in babies born to infected mothers.

Where has Zika been reported?

As of early September 2016, Zika has been reported in:

  • The United States, with a heavy concentration of cases in Florida.
  • Countries in South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela
  • Countries in Central America, including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Cape Verde
  • The Pacific Islands, including American Samoa, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga

How can you prevent Zika?

Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, so one of the best ways to protect yourself against the virus is to take measures to limit bug bites. Because Zika is linked to birth defects, consult your doctor if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Use insect repellant with DEET, long-sleeved shirts and pants, clothing and gear treated with permethrin, and a mosquito net for your bed.
  • Protect yourself with condoms during sexual contact.
  • Watch for symptoms and call your doctor immediately if you suspect you have Zika.

To learn more about Zika, visit the CDC’s Zika resource.

Article last reviewed on: September 8, 2016

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