On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I saw signs warning about Zika transmission and realized that it had been over a year since I had heard about the virus. And though a lot has changed the Zika outbreak, Zika is still affecting almost 100 countries in some capacity.
After interviewing medical professionals and researching Zika on the CDC’s website, I think this underreporting is the result of zero reported cases of mosquito-bite transmission of Zika in the continental U.S. in 2018. Even Puerto Rico, while it still has the Zika virus, has seen a drop in cases. Because of this decline, Zika has largely gone unreported in 2018 for North Americans.
So, What About the Rest of the World?
The CDC lists almost 100 countries as “areas with risk of Zika,” including popular tourist destinations like The Galapagos, India, Mexico, Peru, Fiji, the Maldives, and Singapore, just to name a few.
Take a look at the below map to search for a specific destination and its relation to the Zika virus:
But I Have Travel Plans to an Area at Risk in 2019 …
If you’re healthy, then there is no travel warning for you to avoid travel to an at-risk Zika destination. However, it’s recommended that you take certain precautions, like mosquito-bite prevention and having protected sex, during and after your travels.
>> Read full information on traveling and Zika, here.
If you are trying to get pregnant, or your partner is trying to get pregnant, then you may want to reconsider travel because of the virus’ link to causing birth defects and complications.
>> Read full information on Zika and pregnancy, here.
What’s Changed with Zika Since 2015-16?
According to Tulia Marcolongo, the Executive Director of IAMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers), “The recent decline in cases is believed to be associated in part with increased mosquito control in countries at risk … Most people who become infected with Zika virus do not show signs or symptoms so they do not know if they are carrying the virus. Reliable reporting and monitoring systems that track virus transmission also may not be available in some countries. As a result, the virus can still be a risk at your destination if there is no evidence that transmission of the virus has been interrupted.”
“Based on research, the CDC has updated the recommendations for men that have traveled to Zika infected areas and may have been exposed to the virus. This includes being bit by an infected mosquito or having sexual relations with someone who is infected with Zika or lives in a high-risk area. It was previously recommended that these men wait six months before having unprotected sex or trying to conceive. That number has dropped down to three months. Research has shown that the virus does not live as long in semen as previously thought. However, if that man’s partner is pregnant, the recommendation is to still use protection for the entire pregnancy. For women the recommendation is still to wait two months before trying to conceive if you have traveled to a high-risk area,” says Nadeen White, M.D. Physician, and Travel Blogger.
Where Can You Go If You Want to Avoid Zika in 2019?
There are still plenty of vacation-worthy destinations to visit if you’re looking to travel somewhere without Zika in 2019. “If you are in search of a Caribbean or island vacation, there are several that have been declared Zika free. These are safe for all travelers including pregnant women. Take a trip to the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Martinique or St. Barts. If you are looking for a South American destination, head to Isla de Pascua a.k.a Easter Island,” says White. Chile and Uruguay are also deemed Zika free according to the CDC, as are the continents of Europe and Australia. Other tourist hotspots that are currently safe for pregnant travelers include Sri Lanka, Morocco, The Canary Islands, New Zealand, South Africa, Hawaii, and Seychelles.
For the most up-to-date information, prevention tips, or what to do post-travel to a Zika country, always check the CDC’s website.
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