There have been a plethora of changes since the 2015/2016 Zika virus outbreak, but travelers are still worried about the disease.
Since the initial outbreak, there have been no reported cases of Zika in the mainland U.S. since 2019. And, there are a number of clinical trials happening to find a vaccine for it, but still, no antiretroviral drug has been offered.
According to Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, the virus isn’t as prevalent since its peak in 2015/2016 years when so many people in the Western Hemisphere were infected, which means the immunity for the disease is high. Still, with the mosquito population in place and no vaccine as of yet, it’s possible for the disease to become problematic once more.
He said vaccine development is currently going on, but it could be years before one is developed.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its labeling system to help people learn where a Zika outbreak or case has occurred and if one is currently going on. They also created a label for the low chances of Zika infection due to high elevation, if there is a mosquito type that carried the virus but has no cases of Zika or if a country has no mosquitos.
If you have travel plans that involve an area with reported cases of Zika, you should take preventative measures such as wear long clothing and use mosquito-repellant. It would be wise to sleep in a screened-in room or inside.
Unless you are pregnant or unhealthy, there’s no reason not to travel to these places. It would also be wise to have protected sex during and after the travel.
There are currently no medications or vaccines available for Zika, which is why you need to take the above precautions.
The CDC has a Level 2 travel notice, which states people traveling to Zika-outbreak areas should take enhanced precautions. There are currently no cases of a Zika outbreak.
Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should reconsider traveling since Zika has been tied to birth defects and other complications. Since the virus can live in the semen for weeks after an infection, a couple should practice safe sex for three months or more after the trip.
Since Zika produces no outward symptoms, it’s imperative that women take the necessary precautions not to become pregnant until a few months after the trip. If diagnosed with Zika before becoming pregnant, there is evidence that suggests an infection before it will not endanger the fetus.
Evidence also shows that a person who has become infected with Zika once is liable to be protected from future infections. Still, there is no current test available to determine immunity.
There are still several touristy places to visit that do not have Zika cases at all, including Alaska, Bermuda, Canary Islands, Canada, Chile, Azores, Mauritius, and the majority of Europe.
Doctors advise that people be vigilant and take precautions before, during and after their travel to ensure they are healthy during this time.