CDC says it’s active in a number of warmer weather countries.
Baltimore, Md (KM) The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is urging residents planning a holiday trip or a winter vacation to warmer climates to protect themselves from the Zika virus. The agency says the it has been active in countries in Central and South America, and in the Caribbean.
The virus is spread mostly by mosquito bites.
Dr. Howard Haft, Public Health Services Deputy Secretary, says he realizes many people in Maryland are not thinking about the Zika virus and mosquitoes while it’s cold outside. “When in fact, the actual data that we have in our experience that everyone in Maryland who was infected by Zika achieved those infections in Zika-endemic areas out of Maryland, particularly travelers to warmer countries,’ he says.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says many popular vacation sites have active Zika virus transmission. Some of them are Mexico, Puerto Rico, British and US Virgin Islands, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Haft says anyone whose traveling to these warm weather climates should take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites. “To the extent that you can, stay in air conditioned areas. If you’re outside, be as clothed as possible. Use mosquito repellent. If you’re an area that does not have sufficient screens, make sure you use a mosquito net on your tropical vacation,” he says.
He also says women especially need to protect themselves. “A woman who is pregnant or who may soon become pregnant becomes infected and it can affect in a very negative way the unborn child and lead to birth defects,” says Dr. Haft. That includes microcephaly, which means the infant is born with a smaller head and often has a smaller brain which has not yet developed.
“This disease is not only spread by mosquitoes but it’s also sexually transmitted to a lesser extent,” he says. “Males who travel to Zika-endemic areas, whether they actually experience symptoms or not, should not have unprotected sex with their partners for at least six months.”
By Kevin McManus