Does the Zika Virus Make It Unsafe to Travel?
With the Zika virus now present in the continental U.S., health officials are battling to contain its spread. Currently, 49 states have experienced at least a few cases of Zika. That said, only in Florida have the cases been transmitted locally. In every other state, patients have acquired the virus during travel. With this in mind, the CDC has updated its travel advisories, adding new warnings to Americans planning to go abroad.
What Are the Risks?
Health experts continue to uncover troubling discoveries about Zika and the way it affects the human body. Scientists already knew the virus could cause microcephaly in unborn children. A recent study also found that Zika-infected babies born with normal-size heads went on to develop microcephaly five months to a year after birth. Other research suggests that Zika could cause long-term fertility problems in men, and many experts fear new troubling discoveries could be on the way.
As of early November, 2016, the CDC confirmed Zika infections in over 1,000 pregnant American women, along with over 2,300 pregnant women in U.S. territories. Five U.S. pregnancy losses have also been linked to Zika, and 26 American babies have been born with Zika-related birth defects
Should I Travel?
On November 18, 2016, the World Health Organization declared an end to its global health emergency over the spread of the Zika virus. Despite this, committee members repeatedly emphasized that they do not consider the crisis over.
Several countries are still grappling with serious Zika emergencies, prompting the CDC to continuously update its travel advisory, which recommends against visiting specific countries. While Americans are free to travel to any of these destinations, the CDC strongly urges the following people to stay at home.
- Pregnant women
- Women planning to become pregnant
- Men with a pregnant partner
- Men trying to conceive
- Anyone with immune deficiencies related to another illness or condition
While some have the ability to cancel travel plans, others are forced to go abroad for business. In these cases, travelers should follow the CDC's recommendations for avoiding contact with mosquitoes. Men should also wear condoms or abstain from sex for at least 8 weeks after travel.