Should You Worry About Zika Virus when Traveling?
Media outlets around the world are increasingly covering the Zika virus, especially as we lead up to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Some athletes and support staff have dropped out citing fears of the disease while the Canadian government recommends investing in comprehensive travel insurance. While the name alone sounds scary, the real question is – should you worry about Zika virus when traveling?
What is Zika Virus?
Before worrying about Zika Virus, it is important to know what the virus actually is. Zika virus has been around for nearly 70 years, having first been noticed in monkeys in Uganda in 1947. The Zika virus making headlines today is a mosquito-borne virus that is transferred when they bite you. There are currently 50 countries, mainly in the Caribbean and South America, that have had confirmed cases. The Canadian Government regular updates their website with information related to travel and the Zika virus.
What are the Symptoms of Zika Virus?
For 80% of people who contract Zika virus – there are no symptoms at all, according to the CDC. For the remaining 20%, it plays out a lot like a flu bug with symptoms that can include a fever up to 102F, rash, joint pains, red eyes, muscle pains and headache. Those symptoms will usually last no longer than a week. That said, the strain can remain in your system for up to two months after your first mosquito bite, and can be transmitted sexually.
Who Should Avoid Zika Virus?
While the majority of people should be able to travel without fear of serious problems, the one group that should avoid visiting any country with Zika is pregnant women or women planning on getting pregnant in the near future. The reason being is that there is a correlation between the Zika virus and a birth defect called ‘Microcephaly’.
Can I Protect Myself from Zika Virus while Traveling?
Like all things, there are ways to protect yourself when traveling from the Zika virus. The first thing you should do is invest in comprehensive travel insurance, like the one we offer at isure. Travel insurance will not only provide you total health coverage while you’re in a foreign country, but will enable emergency evacuations and additional resources dedicated to you in case of a problem. Extended ravel insurance can also cover you if your trip needs to be canceled for unforeseen events – but it’s important to read your policy.
While in your foreign locale, you can protect yourself from mosquito bites in a variety of ways. Stay indoors with both air conditioning and screens to avoid mosquitoes altogether. When outside, use an insect repellent that includes ingredients like DEET, Picaridin and/or IR3535. You should also wear clothing that minimizes exposed skin as much as possible.
So should you worry about Zika Virus when traveling? Yes, but if you’re not pregnant nor have immediate plans to get pregnant, you will likely be just fine. As previously mentioned, most don’t exhibit any symptoms and those that do get over them quickly. Keep up on the latest developments and invest in comprehensive travel insurance just in case – but it shouldn’t deter your travels.