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article imageExpert travel advice for entering Zika areas

By Tim Sandle     Mar 14, 2017 in Health
Parts of the southern U.S. (as well as Central and South America) have mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. With Zika there are a mix of myths and facts to be taken account of. To help readers decipher these, we’ve heard from a top medical professional.
Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family. In one in four people the disease causes a mild illness known as Zika fever, for up to seven days. The symptoms include fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The biggest risks are to infected women and babies born with abnormally small heads and brain defects, a condition called microcephaly.
To find out more about the travel risks associated with holiday makers and business people visiting known Zika-risk areas, Dr. Jay Keystone, who is Director of Travel Health at Medisys, has been in contact with Digital Journal. Medisys specializes in providing travel advice to business travelers.
The focus of Dr. Jay Keystone’s concerns with travel to Florida where he states “there is a risk of Zika in Florida.” He also adds that no parts of the Caribbean can be considered Zika-free. For those wishing to go on holiday, the following areas are currently Zika-free and offer alternative vacation experiences: Arizona, San Diego, South Carolina, & Hawaii.
While there is a risk within the state of Florida, the level of risk varies according to different locales. “The highest risk regions of Florida”, according to Dr. Keystone, are “a one-square-mile area of the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami, and a 4.5- square- mile section of Miami Beach.” He also warns that mosquitoes do not respect artificial boundaries on a map, so care must be taken across all areas of the state.
In terms of individual risk, this very much depends on personal circumstances. Dr. Keystone explains: “If you are not pregnant and not planning a pregnancy in the next two months there is no reason to cancel your trip to Florida.” There is a however: “If you are travelling with a male partner who develops a symptomatic Zika infection, it is strongly recommended to wait six-months before trying to become pregnant.”
In terms of protection from Zika bites, given there is no vaccine against Zika the main way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten. With the carrier Aedes mosquito the peak biting time is the early morning and late afternoon. Repellents can help. Dr. Keystone recommends: “insect repellents containing DEET (25-30 percent) and Picaridin (20 percent) can be effective for up to twelve hours and are safe for pregnant women and children over two months of age.” A further protection involves wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
As well as with travelling to Florida there are things to account for in terms of people coming back from the state to other parts of the world. Dr. Keystone has reviewed the latest epidemiological trends. “Recently there has been some concern over non-mosquito transmission of Zika, specifically transmission through bodily fluids.” With this the medic states: “Pregnant women should avoid contact with individuals who are infected with Zika virus or who have travelled to an endemic area.”
If someone who is pregnant needs to travel to a risk area, Dr. Keystone offers the following advice: “The highest risk to the fetus is during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, especially the first 12. Pregnant women should avoid travelling to areas where Zika virus is transmitted but where travel plans cannot be changed, scrupulous insect protection measures should be used.”
Further safe travel advice from Dr. Keystone can be found on the Medisys website.
More about zika, Virus, Travel, Florida
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