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At the beginning of July, the Australian government published comprehensive advice on the Zika virus, detailing information on the infection’s symptoms, transmission rate and health recommendations.
Traditionally, Zika outbreaks occurred most commonly in areas of Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and parts of Africa. However, in May 2015, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) confirmed the first transmission of Zika in Brazil. Since then, outbreaks have occurred in many countries and territories, and are likely to spread further in the coming months.
For those planning a cruise holiday, it’s important to understand the risks of travelling to destinations where Zika is widespread. To help you get the information and guidance you need, here we present a traveller’s guide to the Zika virus, including information on symptoms, prevention, treatment, and the most at-risk destinations.
Information on the Zika virus
What it is and how it is spread?
Zika virus is a non-severe infection transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, one of the most aggressive daytime biting species. These mosquitoes are found in sub-tropical regions, and typically feed around dwellings, particularly ones close to water.
Symptoms and complications
Despite being a flavivirus (a transmitted virus, most commonly by ticks and mosquitos), only one in five people who contract Zika will experience symptoms. Some of these include:
• Low-grade to acute fever
• Joint pain and swelling
• A red rash or bumps on the skin
• Muscle pain and weakness
• Diarrhoea and abdominal pain
The Zika virus itself is classed as a non-severe disease, and symptoms normally resolve themselves within 3-12 days. However, ongoing research has revealed a link between Zika and Gullain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a serious condition affecting the nervous system.
As well as this, Zika can cause congenital abnormalities and other birth defects during pregnancy. Studies suggest that pregnant women infected by Zika can pass the virus to their unborn babies, with potentially devastating consequences.
Essential things you need to know about Zika
To prevent the transmission and spread of the Zika virus, all travellers should be aware of the following information:
• The Zika virus can be spread through unprotected sex
After a person has transmitted Zika from a mosquito bite, they risk passing the infection to their partner through unprotected sex.
• The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites
If you’re travelling on a cruise in the coming weeks, make every effort to prevent mosquito bites. Using EPA-registered insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers, and keeping windows and doors closed are among the best ways to avoid mosquito bites.
• Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika
If you are pregnant and have plans to travel, speak with your healthcare professional before doing so, and follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites.
• Those affected with Zika can spread the infection back home
After you’ve been diagnosed with Zika and return home, the virus will stay in your blood for around a week. During this time you should be careful to prevent further mosquito bites, as the mosquito could get infected and go on to transmit the disease to others.
Preventing the Zika infection
Even if you are not pregnant, every effort should be made to prevent transmission of the Zika virus when visiting countries affected by the disease. Here are some basic steps to prevent contracting the virus:
• Use insect repellent: Use insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, preferably one that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. The most effective repellents include one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535. When applied per the product label instructions, repellents which contain any of these ingredients should offer long-lasting protection against mosquito bites.
• Use a mosquito net, and make sure doors and windows are left closed throughout the day and night
• Cover exposed skin as much as possible.
• Treat your clothing with insecticide: Common insecticide treatments include permethrin
What to do if you think you been exposed to the Zika virus
If you have recently returned from travelling and are concerned you may have been infected by Zika, you should alert your healthcare professional and take active steps to prevent transmitting the virus to others. Pregnant women should seek medical advice immediately, so that a full assessment and screening can be carried out.
Countries, destinations and areas affected by Zika
Understanding which countries have been affected by the Zika outbreak can help you plan a stress-free getaway, or else take the steps needed to prevent contracting the infection. Here, we list the countries, destinations and territories where cases of Zika have been reported.
*(Country – Zika transmission status)
American Samoa – Ongoing/widespread
Argentina – Limited
Aruba – Ongoing/widespread
Barbados – Ongoing/widespread
Belize – Limited
Bolivia – Ongoing/widespread
Bonaire – Limited
Brazil – Ongoing/widespread
Cape Verde – Ongoing/widespread
Colombia – Ongoing/widespread
Costa Rica – Ongoing/widespread
Cuba – Limited
Curacao – Ongoing/widespread
Dominica – Ongoing/widespread
The Dominican Republic – Ongoing/widespread
Ecuador – Ongoing/widespread
El Salvador – Ongoing/widespread
Fiji – Ongoing/widespread
French Guinea – Ongoing/widespread
Grenada – Limited
Guadeloupe – Ongoing/widespread
Guatemala – Ongoing/widespread
Guyana – Ongoing/widespread
Haiti – Ongoing/widespread
Honduras – Ongoing/widespread
Indonesia – Limited
Jamaica – Limited
Kosrae – Limited
Martinique – Ongoing/widespread
Mexico – Ongoing/widespread
Nicaragua – Ongoing/widespread
Panama – Ongoing/widespread
Paraguay – Ongoing/widespread
Peru – Limited
Puerto Rico – Ongoing/widespread
Saint Barthélemy – Limited
Saint Martin Ongoing/widespread
Samoa – Limited
Sint Maarten – Limited
St Lucia – Limited
St Vincent and the Grenadines – Limited
Suriname – Ongoing/widespread
Trinidad and Tobago – Ongoing/widespread
US Virgin Islands – Ongoing/widespread
Venezuela – Ongoing/widespread
Vietnam – Limited
Source: The Department of Health
By following the advice in this article, you can still enjoy a stress-free holiday on the high seas. We’d advise all of our customers to review the information, guidance and recommendations featured on The Department of Health’s Zika virus page before booking cruise holidays to affected destinations.
To browse a complete range of upcoming cruises, or to speak to a member of our team about your travel plans, visit the Cruise1st Australia homepage or call us on 1300 857 345.