Zika Virus – Travel Caution for Pregnant Women

Update on July 18, 2016:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that the Zika Virus is a cause of microcephaly and other brain defects in some babies born to infected mothers.  The Zika Virus is also linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome which can possibly affect the nervous system of people (men and women of all ages) who are bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito.

The CDC stated that pregnant women should not travel to countries that have an outbreak of Zika.


The Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes) and usually last several days to a week. The mosquitos that spread Zika are aggressive especially during the day, but will bite at night as well.  About one in five people infected with Zika show any symptoms, and they are usually not life threatening. Hospitalization is uncommon. The spread of the virus through blood transfusions and sexual contact have also been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are currently no antiviral treatments or vaccines available for Zika.

The main concern is for pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant. 

Pregnant Woman Wearing Marled Gray Sweater Touching Her Stomach

The Zika virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby. There is growing evidence that suggests that if a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, it can possibly lead to microcephaly in their newborn (a baby born with a smaller head and an underdeveloped brain).  In light of this concern and until more facts become available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel Health Advisory. Their recommendation to pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant is that they “should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika transmission is spreading. Pregnant women who do travel to these areas should talk to their doctors and healthcare providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during their trip.” 

The Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week or possibly longer.  The CDC believes there is little concern that the virus would be transmitted to the baby if a woman becomes pregnant after that time frame. It is best to get checked out first by a healthcare provider.

As of February 2016, there are 14 countries or territories in the Americas including Puerto Rico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico where outbreaks have occurred.  Travelers who become ill (usually within two weeks) after returning from these countries should inform their doctor of their recent travels. There has not been any documented evidence of mosquitos being infected with the Zika virus in the U.S.; however, there have been reports of it from travelers returning to the U.S. 


According to the CDC, the best way to prevent Zika is to:

  • Avoid getting bit by mosquitos
  • Use air conditioning when indoors or make sure there are screens on the windows and doors
  • Wear long sleeves and pants and use an insect repellent when outdoors. Most Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered repellents, including DEET, can be used on children older than two months, as well as pregnant women and those that are breastfeeding.

Treatment (as listed on the CDC website):

Pregnant women should be checked by their healthcare provider.

  • Get plenty of rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
  • Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • If you are taking medications for other medical conditions, check with your healthcare provider.

Countries and Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission:

	World map showing countries and territories with reported active transmission of Zika virus (as of May 19, 2016). Countries are listed in the table below.


Currently includes: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela


Currently includes: Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory), Saint Martin, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S. Virgin Islands


Currently includes: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama


Currently includes: American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga


AFRICACape Verde

For more insightful travel ideas, check out my book:

Know Before You Go:  Traveling the U.S. and Abroad





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