Health Topic: Travel Medicine
by Dr. Wilbur Kuo, MD
March 16, 2016
Part 1: Zika virus
What is Zika virus?
- Mosquito-borne virus relatively new to Caribbean that can cause birth defects
What are the symptoms of Zika Virus?
- A rash: flat, red areas covered by small bumps, all throughout the body
- Joint pains, especially small joints of the hands and feet
- Red eyes
- Usually mild, lasting 2-7 days
- Usually starts 2-14 days after a mosquito bite
- Can cause birth defects such as smaller head than normal, or can cause miscarriage
How is Zika virus transmitted?
- Mainly mosquito bites
- Can be sexually transmitted
- Can transfer from mom to unborn baby
How is it diagnosed?
- Mainly a clinical diagnosis
- Confirmation is through blood test, RT-PCR for Zika viral RNA, or Zika virus IgM and neutralizing antibody titers
Where can I get it?
- Africa, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands
- Starting May 2015, started to see in Central/South America, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands
What can I do to avoid it?
- There is no specific treatment for Zika virus, nor is there a vaccine
- Symptomatic treatment with rest, fluids, tylenol
- Main recommendation is avoidance of mosquito bites
- Avoid travel while pregnant to Zika virus areas
- The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus do not live at elevations about 6,500 feet. Pregnant women should consult their physician about visiting higher altitudes
How to avoid mosquitoes?
- stay inside when mosquitoes are most active: the daytime, early morning, few hours before sunset
- stay in buildings with screens and air conditioning
- wear shoes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants
- wear bug spray that contains DEET or picaridin
- on clothes and gear, use bug repellant with permethrin
- drain standing water
As always, consult your physician before making any diagnosis or treatment decisions!
For more info, check out CDC's page on Zika: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-information
or the Massachusetts General Hospital Traveler's Rapid Health Information Portal gten.travel/trhip/trhip