Your next business trip includes destinations in the Caribbean, Central and/or South America, and you are now concerned about your health because some of these destinations have been declared Zika virus active areas.
After the increasing recommendations for safety measures against the emerging Zika virus outbreak issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), should you talk to your boss about it?
After all, you are in your mid 30s or 40s, you are recently married or planning to start a family, or you have small children and you worry about bringing the disease home.
So here are some recommendations from health organizations on the issue that might help you make a sound decision before addressing the issue at work:
- The World Health Organization declined to recommend travel or trade restrictions related to the Zika virus but it is recommending that pregnant women consider delaying travel to any area where the virus has been detected.
- As a safety measure against the emerging Zika virus outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a new guidance recommending the deferral of individuals from donating blood if they have been to areas with active Zika virus transmission, potentially have been exposed to the virus, or have had a confirmed Zika virus infection.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged pregnant women against travel to about two dozen countries, mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America, where the outbreak is growing.
If you decide to travel anyway
You might be thinking that you do not want to jeopardize your next promotion or let a male colleague or co-worker take over your project. If you decide to take the leap anyway, then here is some information you definitely need to know:
- Symptoms, which typically last two to seven days, include fever, joint pain, a rash and pink eye. Some people who do exhibit symptoms don’t do so until they return from their trips.
- So far, neither a vaccine to prevent the disease nor a medicine to treat it has been found.
- Zika is not a fatal disease usually but the outbreak has shown increases in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can sometimes be fatal and microcephaly, a birth defect that leads to shrunken heads in newborns.
- If you are a usual blood donor –as I am–, the FDA is recommending that blood establishments defer blood donations from individuals in accordance with new guidance that include deferring donations for four weeks for those traveling to active virus areas, or those how had sexual contact with a person who has traveled to, or resided in, an area with active Zika virus transmission during the prior three months, and those who have traveled to areas with active transmission of Zika virus during the past four weeks.
Zika virus travel notices
Before making your decision, you should also check the travel notices that the CDC has released regarding the areas of active virus:
- Zika Virus in Cape Verde(http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-cape-verde)
- Zika Virus in the Caribbean(http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-caribbean) Currently includes: Aruba; Barbados; Bonaire; Curaçao; Dominican Republic; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory; Saint Martin; U.S. Virgin Islands
- Zika Virus in Central America(http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-central-america) Currently includes: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
- Zika Virus in Mexico(http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-mexico)
- Zika Virus in the Pacific Islands(http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-pacific-islands) Currently includes: American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga
- Zika Virus in South America(http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/zika-virus-south-america) Currently includes: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela
Protection for travelers to Zika virus areas
After gathering all the information, then you need to take these measures recommended by the CDC to protect yourself from Zika mosquito bites:
Use insect repellent recommended by Consumer Reports:
- FOR PROTECTION AGAINST TICKS AND MOSQUITOES: Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours. Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.
- FOR PROTECTION AGAINST MOSQUITOES ONLY: Products with one of the following active ingredients can also help prevent mosquito bites. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection.
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin. Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the US])
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanicals)
- IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart)
- Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
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