More than two years ago, a Zika outbreak in the United States reaffirmed the importance of checking your travel itinerary for high-risk locations before hopping on a plane to seek out your next adventure. The virus—which is spread through mosquito bites, but is transferrable via sex and pregnancy—manifests in flu-like symptoms that can quickly become more serious and potentially deadly.
To avoid the virus completely, staying in-the-know about the risks of your next vacay destination is key. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a very thorough log of all countries with a Zika presence, and you might just want to bookmark for future wanderlusting.
The regions at risk include countries in Africa (including the Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Uganda), Asia (including the Maldives, the Philippines, and Thailand); locations across North, South, and Central America (including Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru); Caribbean destinations (including Saint Kitts, the US Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos); and the Pacific Islands (including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa). The CDC also keeps a list of locations where the virus once was, but is no longer present, like the Bahamas. And as a general note, the organization says that Zika-carrying mosquitos usually dwell in places below 6,500 feet, so your mountainous destination is more than likely safe.
The CDC determined that 6 percent of the infants exposed to the Zika during pregnancy were born with a birth defect, and 14 percent developed a problem that could be attributed to the virus by the time they turned one.
If you do end up visiting one of the above destinations, let several month pass before you think about conceiving. Because Zika stays alive longer in semen than other bodily fluids, the CDC recommends that men traveling to one of the exposed locations have only protected sex or no sex at all for three full months after returning to their home countries. Women, on the other hand, should wait two.
And while the research is still ongoing regarding the effects on fetuses when expectant mothers are infected with Zika, the just-released largest study to date on the matter sheds some light. After holding up a magnifying glass to the virus’s effects on 1,450, one-year-old exposed babies, the CDC determined that 6 percent of the infants were born with a birth defect, and 14 percent developed a problem that could be attributed to the virus—like microcephaly, a brain abnormality—by the time they turned one.
Only time and additional research will tell how these now one-year-old’s lives will be altered by the infection as they grow up. But in the meantime, travelers and expectant parents (and parents who want to become expectant), should knock the designated locations to the tail end of their bucket lists until the CDC names those destinations Zika-free.
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