Vanderbilt Student Health Center Advisory about Zika Virus Abroad
With the arrival of spring and warmer weather, the Student Health Center offers an advisory regarding Zika virus infection. Updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) change rapidly, so it is recommend that all travelers to the Caribbean and Central and South America visit http://www.cdc.gov/zika/ for information regarding Zika virus and current travel alerts.
Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes species mosquito, which are aggressive daytime biters. Bites from the Aedes mosquitoes are the primary mode of transmission. However, the CDC has reported that Zika virus is also sexually transmitted from infected (often asymptomatic) men to their partners. It is not yet known how long Zika virus is viable in semen, but one report stated that it is present for at least two weeks.
The CDC presently recommends that all men who have traveled to an area with Zika use a condom to prevent transmission of infection to their partners. It is especially important that a man with a pregnant partner use a condom for the duration of his partner’s pregnancy, as Zika infection in pregnant women has been associated with a serious birth defect. In addition, The CDC has issued a travel notice advising pregnant women (or those currently trying to become pregnant) to AVOID TRAVEL to Zika-affected countries.
Women who returned from affected areas and realize that they were pregnant during the trip, or conceived during the trip, should contact their obstetrician for medical advice. The CDC advises all pregnant women with recent travel to Zika areas be tested for the virus.
There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, nor medicine to treat Zika other than medications to help with fever or joint pains. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites by sleeping in screened or air-conditioned rooms, covering exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using insect repellants containing DEET. These same measures will also protect from dengue fever and chikunguyna, two other common mosquito-borne infections in Central and South America.
The Student Health Center encourages all students to schedule a pre-travel consultation before traveling outside of the United States. Students with post-travel infections can also seek evaluation at the Student Health Center by calling (615) 322-2427.