Reports of the virus, which is spreading mainly in South and Central America and can cause disabilities in the unborn, among other things, worry many (soon-to-be) travelers. We've gathered some info you should know about the virus here, as well as tips on how to reduce your risk of infection.
The Zika virus sounds dangerous, and it certainly is. Nevertheless, a number of precautions can help minimize infection. But the most important thing is always: don't panic!
What is the Zika virus?
The virus, like other diseases, is transmitted by a mosquito of the genus Aedes. Subsequent symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, as well as skin rash and conjunctivitis, which occur 1-12 days after infection. There is still neither a vaccination, nor a specific drug, the treatment is done by common, for example, fever-reducing agents, rest and lots of fluids.
Although the WHO (World Health Organization) has declared a "Health Emergency of International Concern," there is no need for travelers to panic. For most of those affected, the disease only lasts for about two weeks. one week. Subsequently, the person is almost certainly immune to the virus for life. For pregnant women, however, the situation is different: Most likely, the Zika virus leads to malformation of the head of newborns, as well as sometimes significant permanent neurological damage.
The most affected country is currently Brazil, but in recent weeks and months there has been an expansion into neighboring countries, especially to the north and west, such as Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela, as well as Central America and the Caribbean region, where every country has now recorded illnesses. From time to time, people in Africa are also infected with the virus, although no risk to pregnant women and babies has been identified so far.
What this means for travelers?
Persons traveling to South or Central America in the near future should be aware of the risk of infection. However, this does not mean that a vacation has to be postponed or cancelled. This is only necessary in exceptional cases.
As with other mosquito-borne diseases, it is strongly recommended that you take the following precautions:
- Use of insect sprays for body and room
- Putting a mosquito net over the bed
- Especially at night clothing such as long pants and tops
- Avoid standing water points (flower pots, standing pond, etc.).)
- For longer stays: install a fly screen, air conditioner or even an electric biocide vaporizer
Since it has not yet been proven whether the virus can also be spread interpersonally via bodily fluids, special caution is also advised during sexual activities. Following this advice alone can reduce the risk of infection by up to 90%. Of course, it is important to continue to monitor any symptoms and consult a tropical doctor in the weeks after your return.
Since for pregnant women or. their baby is at increased risk of sequelae, they should not travel to affected countries at this time. Most airlines are currently very accommodating in this regard and offer free rebooking or a full refund, in each case including the accompanying person/family. Please check with your airline for exact conditions. Almost all of them have already set up their own hotline or email address for this purpose, which you can usually find under "Service" and a separate category "Zika virus".
Although the Zika virus seems omnipresent at the moment, it is important to remember that other diseases, some far more dangerous and painful, can also be transmitted via similar mosquitoes. These include dengue and yellow fever as well as malaria. The above mentioned precautions are to be followed in any case, even if you think that you are not necessarily in an acutely affected region of the Zika virus.
For further information and the latest news, please contact the German Foreign Office and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).