Zika Virus: Popular Vacation Destinations Added to Travel Alert List

January 27, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its travel alert list to now include 24 countries due to the Zika virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its travel alert list to now include 24 countries due to the Zika virus.

The United States Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic are the two latest additions to the Level 2 — Practice Enhanced Precautions travel alert issued by the CDC. Public health officials advise that travelers follow enhanced precautions when visiting these destinations and warn that they could potentially be at high risk for contracting the mosquito-borne illness. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) expects the virus to reach every country where Aedes mosquitos are found — including the United States.

The two countries join 22 that have already been flagged:

  • Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Suriname, and Venezuela

So far, the only Zika virus cases in the United States occurred after patients visited countries where the virus has been found — meaning no local transmission cases have been reported thus far. Multiple airlines are even refunding tickets to those who have purchased flights to countries in Central and South America.

Pregnant women are advised to be especially cautious since the infection has been linked to microcephaly — a condition where a child is born with a smaller-than-normal head and brain size. Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially paralyzing disorder, has also been reported in people infected with the Zika virus.

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“Some travelers to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission will become infected while traveling but will not become sick until they return home,” a CDC statement said, which is exactly what happened recently in Texas and Hawaii.

There is currently neither a preventive vaccine nor specific treatment for Zika virus infection. Two European pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), are considering developing a vaccine — a process that officials say will take three to five years.

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