Zika Virus in Central America and Panama

The World Health Organisation advise pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant against traveling to Zika-affected areas due to risk of birth defects.

Zika cases have been verified across Latin America, including Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Travellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.   The best protection from Zika virus is preventing mosquito bites. Preventing mosquito bites will protect people from Zika virus, as well as other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes such as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.

What is the Zika virus?

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

If Zika fever itself is usually mild, why is it getting so much attention?

In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.

In response, CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Is it safe to travel to affected regions?

Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:

Pregnant women in any trimester or women trying to become pregnant should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first.

What’s happening in Panama?

EcoCircuitos knows of no Zika cases having been reported by any of our clients and travelers, and the only area being affected so far is Kuna Yala in the San Blas Islands. However, local governments are beginning to advise women to consider postponing pregnancy due to the uncertainty of the virus and its connection to birth defects.

EcoCircuitos advice all tour passengers to travel sensibly, and to take preventive measures against mosquito bites, as one naturally does when traveling to the Tropics.  Any passenger who is pregnant or think they may become pregnant during or prior to their trip should contact their doctor and consider cancelling their trip in accordance with CDC/WHO advice.

We invite you to watch this video from WHO.

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