Dispelling Zika Myths: As Zika Scare Subsides, Education Is Still Key

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For the most part, the fear surrounding the Zika virus that prompted most clients to re-route their Caribbean and Latin American vacations in 2016 has subsided.

Heading into 2017, many advisors have told Travel Agent that very few clients are inquiring about the Zika virus when heading to such warm-weather destinations as the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii.

Although the initial panic has disappeared, Kimberly Seay, director of assistance for the U.S. for travel insurance company, Allianz Global Assistance, told Travel Agent there are still some clients who are drastically misinformed when it comes to several key components regarding the Zika virus.

To help clarify what is true and false surrounding the Zika virus, Seay tells us five common misconceptions regarding Zika and then breaks down the truth behind each.

1. All child bearing women should be vaccinated to protect themselves from the Zika Virus.

There is no vaccine that protects anyone from Zika. The best and most effective precaution is to avoid mosquito bites and unprotected sex. Protect yourself by using an EPA-registered insect repellent, keeping your arms and legs covered, windows closed and eliminating standing water. 

Pregnant women should avoid traveling to area’s with active Zika virus transmission (please refer to the CDC website for most recent Zika transmission information).

2. As long as you do not conceive while visiting an area where there is an active Zika virus transmission, it’s OK to get pregnant on your return home.

Men who have traveled to a place where the Zika virus is present should wait at least six months after travel (or six months after symptoms started if they get sick) before trying to conceive with their partner. Women should wait at least eight weeks after travel (or eight weeks after symptoms started if they get sick) before attempting conception. The waiting period is longer for men because Zika stays in semen longer than in other bodily fluids.

3. A person knows when they have Zika related to its symptoms.

People can be infected without having any symptoms or their symptoms can be so mild that they do not associate their symptoms with the virus. Symptoms (red eyes, fever, muscle and joint pain and rash) typically last for a few days up to a week. Pregnant women who come in contact with the virus can cause serious birth defects or other serious brain defects to their fetus.

There has also been a strong correlation (small percentage) of folks that contract the Zika virus developing a neurological syndrome called Guillain Barre (GBS). They believe that once infected, you do not become infected again and there is no risk to future pregnancies.

4. There is no testing available to confirm the Zika virus.

Testing to confirm Zika can be performed on both blood and urine, if you suspect that you have been infected. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

5. Anti-viral medications are taken/prescribed when a person is diagnosed with the Zika virus.

There is no vaccine or medications for the Zika virus. First and foremost, speak with your physician as soon as possible and treat your symptoms. It is important to avoid getting mosquito bites (as they can transmit the virus to other humans) and protect others from your blood and bodily fluids (urine, stool and vomit). The virus is not contagious through casual contact, but always practice good hand hygiene.

The best advice we can give is if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant in the near future, avoid areas while the Zika virus is documented. Remember to always protect yourself from mosquito bites and if your partner has traveled to an area where Zika is present, please practice safe sex.  

Visit www.cdc.gov/zika and www.allianztravelinsurance.com. Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news and be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.