Emerging infectious diseases, such as those caused by the Zika virus, are of concern for families traveling to areas in the Caribbean, central and South America and even in the southern regions of the United States. Zika virus infections are caused by bites of Aedes mosquitos that are infected with the virus. The mosquitos that spread Zika are aggressive daytime biters, can also bite at night and can bite both indoors and outdoors.
Most people who are bitten and are infected have no symptoms. For the 20% who display symptoms, the illness is usually mild and may include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The main concern is women who are pregnant, or may be pregnant in the near futures – Zika is linked with the development of microcephaly (small brain) when pregnant mothers are infected with the virus. The CDC is also studying the possible relation between Zika virus and a neurological condition, Guillain-Barre. The Zika virus has also recently been found to be sexually transmitted.
When considering their travel plans, each family will need to take into account their own personal circumstances.
When traveling, there are a number of simple steps to take to help protect your child from mosquito bites that can spread the Zika virus. These steps can also help protect your child from two other viral infections spread by mosquitos, the Chikunguya and Dengue virus.
Consult the latest news and information on Zika virus from the CDC
The CDC lists travel to the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and South America as a Level 2 Alert – Practice Advanced Precautions. The specific countries in affected regions are found on the CDC web site. Advanced Precautions include using insect repellant and long sleeve clothing.
Use insect repellent wisely and regularly
Products with one of the following active ingredients can also help prevent mosquito bites. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. If you are using sunscreen, use sunscreen first and put insect repellant over it. In general, the higher the percentage of active ingredient, the longer the protection lasts per application.
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin. Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
- IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Note: The CDC has NOT placed any restrictions on travel within the United States. As of February 10, 2016 the CDC reports 52 travel associated Zika virus cases (people who were infected by mosquitos when traveling outside the United States), but NO locally acquired vector-borne cases reported (no cases where people were infected while only living in the United States). The CDC continues to monitor the situation closely – please check the CDC website for updates and advisories.