There has been a recent travel advisory for all travelers to South and Central America regarding a current outbreak of a viral illness, the Zika virus.
The Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquito bites. Due to the current mosquito season, this is relevant at the moment. Everybody is vulnerable to it, with infection symptoms including fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye lids). There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available. The best form of prevention is protection against bites (insect repellent, sprays, light-coloured clothes that cover the body as much as possible, mosquito nets). When sick, the treatment is plenty of rest, enough fluids and possibly acetaminophen/Tylenol for pain relief.
There is a very particular risk associated with pregnancy. Over the past weeks, the virus has been in the news with increased outbreaks leading to several cases of congenital deformity, in particular in Brazil (however, mostly in the northern part of the country). Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center of Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommends that pregnant women adjust travel to areas where Zika is circulating, preferably avoiding it. In any case, they should consult a doctor to get advice before travel and mention it to their doctor in pre-natal check-ups (before and after travel).
For more information, here is a link to the CDC’s site:
Please contact your family physician or a CSIO physician if you have any questions.