- By Deb Balzer
Infectious Diseases A-Z: Zika and spring break
Many students and their families in the U.S. are taking a reprieve from winter and traveling to warmer climates for spring break. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to remind those heading to areas where there have been known cases of Zika to protect themselves, and help stop the spread of the mosquito-borne virus.
"Zika has not gone away," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. "Even though we’re talking less about Zika in the news — mostly because we’re not seeing as many cases as we did during the summer months — those cases are still trickling in. And the main concern is, of course, when things start to warm up, that we will likely see a resurgence, and potentially a continuation in the geographic spread of where Zika is now endemic in very small areas within the U.S."
The CDC offers theses tips to spring break travelers:
- Use insect repellent. Reapply, as directed. Remember to apply sunscreen first and then insect repellent.
- Cover exposed skin, when possible.
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. Use a bed net if you’re sleeping outside.
- Zika also can be spread through sex, so use condoms if you have sex.
"My hope is that we have a Zika vaccine that is ready before any potential spread of Zika throughout the rest of the U.S.," says Dr. Tosh. "My concern is that we may not have that, in which case the real area of protection is making sure that pregnant women are not traveling to areas with ongoing Zika transmission. Also, if they are living in an area with ongoing Zika transmission, they should be very careful about avoiding mosquito bites and getting rid of standing water within their home to avoid harboring mosquitoes, such as the Aedes aegypti that tend to live very close to human homes."
Zika virus, which can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that affects head size.It is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus).