Any holiday is a treat to look forward to, especially after a long busy period of constant work and effort. A few days spent in the sun, by the water, cocktail in one hand and an interesting book in the other, might just be the perfect reward as soon as your schedule finally clears.
That is why the latest news that the new mosquito-borne illness called Zika, which has already reached more than 30 countries in the American continent alone — from Brazil to Mexico to Florida — is likely to interfere with any of your sunny beach plans.
Indeed, the potentially dangerous areas are vastly spread, and no one can precisely predict where the virus may go next. While the CDC’s (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for traveling are available to consult thoroughly, this is what you should know before worrying that you may need to cancel your vacation you’ve already booked and even perhaps paid for.
Who’s at Risk?
Unless you are pregnant or planning to conceive, Zika is not a big enough menace to derail your plans. The virus is of greatest concern to women carrying a baby because it can have tragic consequences for the fetus, including brain damage and head malformations.
Also, the infection can be sexually transmitted and remains active for approximately six months, so if you are a male who travels in one of the Zika-affected areas, you should refrain from trying to conceive with your partner for the disease’s active period, just to make sure you don’t affect the health of your future baby.
Fortunately, if you already have kids and plan to take them with you, Zika’s effects on children and their parents isn’t as troubling as in the case of pregnant women. In fact, research shows no symptoms at all for children, and mild effects were reported in adults: rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes that go away after several days of treatment.
Which Precautions Are in Order?
If you decide to go along with your plans, provided you are not in the highest risk category of people, there are several simple measures you should take nevertheless:
Use Insect Repellent
You might have taken bug sprays with you on vacation before, but this time you must use it religiously. Buy products that contain the active ingredients DEET and picaridin, which are effective in deterring mosquitoes, and spray them on top of clothes and bare skin.
Apply it at All Times
If you’re using sunscreen, apply it first and then use the insect repellent. Make sure to use the bug spray both outside and inside, since mosquitoes exist both outdoors and indoors and are attracted to human smells and bodily heat.
Wear Protective Clothing
Any exotic location makes you think of shorts and T-shirts, but this time you should consider covering a little bit more. Long sleeves and pants in lightweight materials are a better option if you’re traveling in Zika-affected areas; clothes pretreated with permethrin, a synthetic insecticide, are also something you can buy before traveling.
Get the Right Accommodations
Make sure the room you’ll be staying in has air-conditioning and screens on the windows and doors, which is a safe way to avoid mosquito bites. Insect nets are also an excellent idea to use around the bed, to make sure you get a good and safe sleep.
The Zika virus is escalating at a fast pace, so it’s difficult to determine the risk levels it will pose. Keep in mind that if you are pregnant or planning to have a baby in the near future, the CDC is recommending that travel to Zika-affected countries be postponed.