Zika Virus Prompts Spring Break Travel Warning

zika virusSpring Break is the time of the year when people often head to warm, tropical places for vacation. But this year, pregnant women and their partners might want to rethink that, in light of health warnings about the Zika virus. It continues to spread in places like Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Dr. Jen Brown with the Indiana State Department of Health says although a state resident was diagnosed with Zika last month, she doesn’t expect a widespread outbreak here.

“The virus’ favorite mosquito is Aedes Aegypti, and that’s a mosquito that we don’t even have in Indiana, and we know this because we do very extensive surveillance for mosquitoes every year,” Brown said.

The travel warning for pregnant women and their partners was issued because Zika has been associated with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and brain damage, in some cases. Brown urges anyone else traveling to the affected countries not to panic, but to take precautions because mosquitoes spread disease.

Brown adds the Aedes Aegypti is also known as the “yellow fever” mosquito – but she adds Indiana’s climate and level of public sanitation would prevent a local outbreak. She says they thrive in areas of dense human population areas and are common in urban areas associated with poor sanitation. That’s because the mosquito that transmits the virus breeds in standing water associated with human garbage.

Brown says anyone traveling to climates where mosquitoes thrive is always encouraged to wear repellent and sleep in air-conditioned rooms or with mosquito nets. She notes this particular mosquito is more determined to bite than some others because it is active during the daytime and spends more time indoors than domestic mosquitoes.

No travel bans have been issued, just advisories for pregnant women. Brown says the mosquito is responsible for a lot of human illness. However, she notes most people who contract the Zika virus don’t get sick, and only one in five will feel mildly ill.