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Heading to Latin America or the Caribbean This Summer? CDC Recommendations

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By Dr. Gary Brunette, Chief of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Travelers' Health Branch

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We are in the heart of summer and many people are headed out of the country to spend time with friends and family and recharge. If you are one of the lucky ones planning a trip to Latin America or the Caribbean, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants you to know that Zika is still a concern in these parts of the world, and we have important travel tips to help you protect yourself.

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Travelers who plan to visit Latin America or the Caribbean should take steps to prevent getting and spreading Zika, especially pregnant women. Though it's not in the news as much as year's past, Zika virus is still a risk. If a woman becomes infected with Zika during pregnancy, she can pass the virus to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe birth defects.

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CDC urges pregnant women not to travel to areas with risk of Zika.

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If you're planning to become pregnant and you or your partner recently returned from an area with risk of Zika, you should consider waiting before trying to get pregnant, because you could be infected with Zika but not have any symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your pregnancy plans and possible Zika risk before and after traveling.

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Whether you're traveling to the beach, countryside, or city, if you're traveling to an area with risk of Zika, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites. If you've recently returned from an area with risk of Zika and are not feeling well, you should see a doctor and let the doctor know that you have recently traveled. If you are pregnant and traveled to an area with risk of Zika, talk to a doctor or healthcare provider.

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Here's what you can do before, during, and after your trip to Latin America or the Caribbean to prevent Zika.

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Prevention Starts with Packing

Zika is spread primarily through mosquito bites, so insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants are must-bring items. Pack an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. These repellents are safe for use by pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children older than two months (OLE and PMD should not be used on children younger than 3 years). If you'll be sleeping in a room without door and window screens or air conditioning, pack a bed net. For further protection, you can spray clothes and accessories - like hats and bags - with permethrin (except in Puerto Rico, where mosquitoes have become resistant to it). Because Zika can also be spread through sex, bring and use condoms during the trip. Before you leave, visit cdc.gov/viajosinzika to get the latest Zika information about your destination.

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Keep Your Trip Zika-free

The best way to prevent Zika is to avoid mosquito bites. During your trip, you should:

  • Use insect repellent every day, and follow the label's instructions. EPA-registered insect repellents are effective and safe, even for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding.
  • Do not use repellent on babies younger than two months. Protect them by draping mosquito netting over their carrier or car seat.
  • Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children younger than 3 years old
  • Apply sunscreen first, then insect repellent.

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Zika can be passed through sex. To prevent getting and spreading Zika, use condoms every time you have sex on your trip.

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Protect Others After You Return

Even the most careful travelers can get Zika. Talk to your doctor if you develop a fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, or muscle pain. Because you could be infected with Zika but not have any symptoms, you should continue to use insect repellent for three weeks after your return. That way, you won't spread the virus to mosquitoes that could then infect other people.

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Because Zika can be passed through sex, protect your partner after your trip by using condoms:

  • Women: use condoms (or do not have sex) for two months.
  • Men: use condoms (or do not have sex) for six months.
  • If both partners traveled, use condoms (or do not have sex) for six months.
  • If your partner is pregnant, use condoms (or do not have sex) for the rest of the pregnancy.

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If you are planning to become pregnant, consider waiting to get pregnant for two months for women who travel, or six months for male travelers or couples who travel together.

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Zika doesn't need to stop your summer travel plans - unless you're pregnant - if you prepare and take actions to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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For more tips on what you can do before, during, and after your trip, visit www.cdc.gov/ViajoSinZika or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), TTY: 888-232-6348.



 
 
 
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