Winter break and holiday travelers reminded to take Zika virus precautions
Virus still transmitted in vacation hotspots; State updating case count system
Baltimore, MD (December 7, 2016) – As college students and families pack for winter break and holiday trips that might take them to popular destinations where the Zika virus is still being spread locally by mosquito and people, Health and Mental Hygiene is reminding Marylanders to exercise caution.
“We certainly want those taking trips to warmer destinations this winter to enjoy themselves,” said Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Van T. Mitchell. “We want to remind residents that they should pack accordingly, especially if they are visiting areas where the spread of Zika – especially by mosquitoes – is still a threat.”
“While the threat of Zika transmission from mosquitoes has diminished here in Maryland because of colder weather, all of the confirmed Zika virus cases here so far have occurred as a result of travel abroad,” said Public Health Services Deputy Secretary Dr. Howard Haft.
Maryland’s health department also will be updating its case count, reporting the combined number of Maryland’s confirmed and probable cases of Zika virus disease. This will reflect infected patients with and without symptoms. This number increase is an artificial result of the change in how cases are counted but does not signify a sudden increase in travel-associated cases; neither does it signify local transmission of Zika virus. “We think that the new total will better reflect the impact of Zika virus on Maryland residents,” said Dr. Haft. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people infected with the Zika virus will not have any symptoms.
Zika virus is chiefly spread through mosquito bites – though less frequently, transmission via sexual contact, blood transfusion and to newborns during pregnancy has been documented. Because of the link between Zika and birth defects including microcephaly – which is characterized by smaller heads and underdeveloped brains in newborns – the CDC recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus is spreading. These areas now include Cape Verde, Mexico and countries in Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific Islands and South America.
Women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant are advised to not travel to countries with known local Zika transmission. Men who have traveled to an area with Zika and whose partner is pregnant should use condoms every time they have sex – or they should abstain from sex – during the pregnancy.
Sexual transmission guidance for both men and women has been released by the CDC. All men with Zika virus disease or possible Zika virus exposure who are considering attempting conception with their partner should wait at least six months. Women with Zika virus disease or possible Zika virus exposure should wait at least 8 weeks. Those who have traveled to an area with Zika who are not trying to conceive should use the most effective contraceptive method that can be used correctly and consistently, including condoms or dental dams, to prevent the spread of the virus.
When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, travelers are advised to take the following steps:
For more CDC information on avoiding Zika infection during travel, visit http://goo.gl/lgHuWC. For CDC information on the Zika virus in Spanish, visit http://goo.gl/9oYFgj.