County health department issues Zika travel advisory

The virus is spreading in many Latin American countries, including Mexico

With the holiday travel season ramping up, the San Benito County Health and Human Services agency has issued a Zika health and travel advisory for the community:

The Zika virus is spreading in many Latin American countries, including Mexico. (This includes popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Mazatlan, Baja California Sur, and Sonora.) However, any travel to Mexico could be a risk for Zika. Zika virus is also spreading in the Caribbean.

There are several ways to get the Zika virus:

  • Through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
  • Sexual contact with an infected person.
  • An infected pregnant woman to her unborn child.
  • Through blood transfusion.

Also, people who have traveled to an area with Zika can spread the virus to their sexual partners during unprotected sex even if the travelers do not have Zika symptoms.

The Zika virus is most dangerous for pregnant women or women who are planning to get pregnant because the virus can cause devastating birth defects.

Pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, should not travel to areas with Zika. If you are pregnant, and must travel to an area with Zika, talk to your healthcare provider before traveling.

Everyone traveling to a Zika area should avoid mosquito bites by taking the following precautions:

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents according to directions on the package. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol are effective against Aedes species mosquitoes.  (When you use EPA-registered insect repellents as directed, they are safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women.)
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. (You can use permethrin spray on your clothing—but not on your skin)
  • Avoid being outside at sunrise and sunset, as this is when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use air conditioning or window screens to keep mosquitoes outside, or use a bed net.
  • Every time you have sex, use male condoms, female condoms, and/or dental dams consistently and correctly. 

The CDC suggests the following timeframes to wait before trying to get pregnant after Zika symptoms or last possible exposure to Zika:

Women: 8 weeks
Men: 6 months

If you come home after traveling to an area with Zika and have fever with joint pain or rash within two weeks of your return, contact your healthcare provider. Tell your healthcare provider where you traveled, and use EPA-registered insect repellents for three weeks after your return.

For more information, contact your local health department, or visit the CDC website for Zika-related information.

BenitoLink Staff