By now, many travelers already know about Zika virus: a mosquito-transmitted virus which is extremely dangerous for pregnant women and has been linked to microcephaly — a neurological disorder which causes infants to be born with unusually small heads and results in brain damage, serious developmental problems, and even death. The CDC has recommended that pregnant women consider postponing travel to any and all areas affected by the virus. So what babymoon and vacation destinations have experienced Zika virus outbreaks so you know which ones should you avoid?
So far, there are confirmed cases of Zika virus in 21 countries: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the United States. However, according to the CDC, only areas with “ongoing transmissions” are of concern. The good news is that not all of these countries have ongoing transmissions. The bad news is that 14 of them do.
As such, the CDC has suggested travelers avoid the following countries affected by the Zika virus travel alert: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. If you must travel to one of these countries, the CDC has advised that you talk to your doctor first — especially if you are pregnant — and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. Specifically, they suggested that travelers wear long-sleeved shirts, and long pants, stay and sleep in screened-in and/or air-conditioned rooms whenever possible, and use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535.
If you're worried about toxic chemicals? Don't be. According to the CDC, almost all insect repellents are safe for pregnant and nursing women and children older than 2 months — including those containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535. However, they noted, those products which contain oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used by anyone under the age of three.
It is important to note that the Zika outbreak has yet to be contained, and while travel to the aforementioned countries should be avoided, whenever possible, that does not mean these are the only countries which can — and will be — affected.
In short, what specific areas Zika will hit — and when — remains to be seen, and will likely change over time. For that reason, all travelers should continue to stay abreast on the virus and the CDC’s travel notice, as it will be updated if/when new information is available. Safe travels, everyone.
Images: OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images