Zika Prevention Tips for Spring Break Travelers

State health officials offer Zika prevention tips for Spring Break travelers

Spring Break is a time for college kids and families to have fun in the sun and many Montanans may be planning to go to Mexico, Central or South America and the Caribbean.

State and local public health officials are reminding travelers to these areas to protect themselves from Zika virus. Risk of Zika infection, transmitted primarily by mosquitos and sometimes through sexual contact, can be minimized by following simple precautions when traveling to an affected area.

“Savvy travelers know that preparation is essential for a great trip, and today that involves bringing mosquito repellent, dressing to prevent bites and using condoms if you are planning to have sex,” said Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) epidemiologist Christine Mulgrew.

Most people who get Zika virus will not get sick. One in five people infected will develop symptoms like a rash, fever, headache and red eyes. “If you have these symptoms during or after your spring break trip, see your healthcare provider and they may test you for Zika,” Mulgrew said.

Although rare, severe complications have been linked to Zika Virus infection. Of primary concern is microcephaly, a condition of under-developed brains in infants. It has been linked with mothers with a history of Zika infection during the pregnancy. Because of this risk, pregnant women and women wanting to become pregnant are urged to postpone travel to Zika affected regions.

Recent evidence also showed that men ill with Zika infection may be able to transmit the virus to sexual partners. Men who have traveled to or live in an area with Zika should use condoms or abstain from sex with pregnant partners.

Zika virus is carried by certain species of Aedes mosquitos which do not live in Montana or our region. As a result, risk for Zika in Montana is related to travelers who may become infected when visiting a Zika-affected area or anyone who may have unprotected sex with an infected male returning from one of those areas.  For more information on Zika and how to protect yourself, visit the DPHHS Zika website at www.dphhs.mt.gov.