The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, advises spring break travelers to be cautious and take steps to prevent mosquito bites and unprotected sexual contact if traveling to areas of the globe where the Zika virus has been identified. DPH also is urging pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
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 or to sign up for health alerts visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov/zika or the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/zika.
“This is the time of year that universities, school districts and other organizations observe spring break and many Kentuckians will be traveling for vacation or mission and service trips,” said Dr. Hiram Polk, DPH commissioner. “If that is the case, we urge you to research the area in which you’ll be traveling. If Zika has been documented in the area, make sure you take appropriate steps to prevent mosquito bites.”
•Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. In warmer weather, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin. Wear socks that cover the ankles and lower legs.
•Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. When used as directed these are safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women. Always follow directions, and reapply as directed. Apply sunscreen prior to insect repellent if using both.
•Do not use insect repellents on babies under two months of age. Instead, dress your baby in clothing that covers the arms and legs, or cover crib, stroller, or carrier with mosquito netting.
•Treat clothing and gear with permethrin. Do not use permethrin directly on your skin.
Pregnant women should postpone travel to areas with Zika virus transmission. Women who traveled to a Zika virus-affected country and are planning to become pregnant should discuss plans for pregnancy with a healthcare professional to determine risk and the options available. Travelers returning from Zika-affected areas are reminded of the importance of wearing mosquito repellent for three weeks after returning and to practice safe sex to help prevent transmission.
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.
Travelers to Zika virus-affected countries who develop fever, rash, joint pain, red inflamed eyes, or other acute symptoms within two weeks of return to Kentucky should consult with their medical professional. Some infected individuals have no symptoms at all. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent Zika infection.
To date, 35 confirmed cases of Zika virus have been reported in Kentuckians who contracted the illness while traveling to Zika-affected areas.
Information about where the Zika virus is circulating and advice for travelers can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travelers’ Health Website, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
Be sure to follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter and DPH’s Zika mascot, Marty Mosquito, on Instagram, @martymosquito.