Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Zika Virus Outbreaks Continue at Warm-Weather Vacation Destinations - Precautions Urged

As mosquito season comes to an end and the holiday and winter travel season begins, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, urges pregnant women, those who might be pregnant and their sex partners to avoid traveling to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

“With the Christmas holiday coming, travel to Zika-affected areas is expected to increase,” said Dr. Hiram Polk, DPH commissioner. “We are urging Kentuckians to remain vigilant as the Zika virus continues to circulate in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America and parts of Miami-Dade County in the state of Florida. If you are unsure about the presence of Zika in the area in which you are traveling, err on the side of caution. Use repellent and wear protective clothing to avoid mosquito bites. Those travelers returning from Zika-affected areas are reminded to practice safe sex to help prevent transmission and to use an EPA-approved insect repellent at all times for outdoor activities.”

Kentuckians planning international travel are particularly encouraged to consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers’ Health Website, for country-specific health information for travelers. A weblink about Zika Travel Information, is found on that site. International travelers to at-risk countries who develop fever, rash, joint pain, red inflamed eyes and other acute symptoms within two weeks of return to Kentucky should consult with their medical provider.

There was no local transmission of Zika virus in Kentucky during the 2016 mosquito season. For a full list of affected countries and regions visit here.

Increasing scientific evidence suggests a link between infection in pregnant women and infants born with birth defects such as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where the head is smaller than normal and is very likely to be associated with significant central nervous system abnormalities and life-long complications.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant take the following precautions:

• Pregnant women should not travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is occuring. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas must talk to their doctor or other healthcare professional first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

• Based on reports of possible Zika transmission through sexual contact, CDC recommends pregnant women avoid sexual contact with men who have recently returned from areas with Zika transmission. CDC recommends men who have traveled to a Zika-affected area and developed symptoms consistent with Zika during travel or two weeks after travel to use condoms for six months after symptoms begin or to abstain from sex for 6 months. CDC recommends men who have traveled to a Zika-affected area and did not develop any symptoms to use condoms for at least 8 weeks after departure from Zika-affected areas or abstain from sex for 8 weeks.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent infection and no specific antiviral treatment for Zika infection. Its most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, although many infected individuals have no symptoms at all.

To receive Zika text updates from the CDC providing valuable tips on staying protected during your trips and staying healthy, text PLAN to 855-255-5606.

For further information visit the Health Alerts website or the CDC website.

Be sure to follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter and DPH’s Zika mascot, Marty Mosquito, on Instagram, @martymosquito.

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