The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and the symptoms are mild, lasting for several days to a week. About 1 in 5 people infected with the Zika virus become ill and the most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache and muscle pain. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine but serious illness is rare.
Zika is mainly affecting Central and South America where it has spread to more than 20 countries. There have been 22 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Puerto Rico but the capital of San Juan (where Routes Americas will take place) has not been affected – the cases have mainly involved elderly people in the south east of the island. Puerto Rico’s government is working to contain the spread of the virus through preventative education and eradicating mosquito breeding grounds.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised travellers to Puerto Rico to reduce their risk of infection by protecting themselves from mosquito bites. Recommendations include:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats (particularly at dusk)
- Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection, so use products with the following active ingredients:
- Picaridin- also known as KBR 3023 and Icaridin
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)- also known as PMD
- IR3535 – also known as Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate
- Stay and sleep in ‘screened-in’ or air conditioned rooms
As the Zika virus has been linked with increased numbers of babies born with microcephaly, the CDC advises that “pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing”. If pregnant women do travel they should consult their doctor first and follow strict steps to avoid being bitten by a mosquito during the trip.
Women trying to become pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant should also consult with their doctor before traveling to an affected area. If they do make the trip they should follow the advice to prevent mosquito bites.
All ports, airports and taxi services continue to run as usual in Puerto Rico and businesses, visitor centres, beaches and parks are open for visitors.
Delegates can keep up to date with the latest information by visiting the CDC website.
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company will post any alerts regarding travel to Puerto Rico at seepuertorico.com.
We will update this article with any further developments in the run-up to Routes Americas.
The CDC has issued interim guidelines on prevention of sexual transmission of the Zika virus, focusing on the male sexual partners of women who are or may be pregnant. Experts stress that mosquitoes, as opposed to sexual transmission, will continue to be the far greater concern.