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Announcements : Zika Virus
Announcement: Zika Virus

Event Date: 02/03/2016
The Zika Virus is capturing headlines, in part because it's believed to be linked to tragic birth defects in Brazil and other tropical countries in the Americas. Areas of local Zika transmission currently include Central and South America, the Caribbean, Mexico and the US (Florida). Other affected areas include Singapore, the Cape Verde islands off the coast of Africa and multiple islands in the Pacific. However this outbreak is fluid and new areas with Zika transmission are continuing to be reported. We regularly monitor for new risks and, though Zika isn't a public health emergency directly affecting Tufts, we want to share some important points you should still know.

The CDC has issued a Level 2 advisory (use enhanced precautions) for areas with active Zika transmission. The Zika virus is spread to people through either mosquito bites or contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person (including blood and sexual fluids). The majority of people infected with Zika will have no symptoms.  If it occurs, symptomatic infection is characterized by at least two of the following: fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Small numbers of patients with Zika infection have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of  the nervous system leading to numbness and weakness).  GBS is uncommon and is not unique to Zika and can be triggered by a range of other  infections as well as by vaccinations.
The mosquitoes that carry Zika bite predominantly during the day time and can also carry other viral infections such as Dengue and Chikungunya.  Currently no vaccine or prophylactic medications are available for the prevention of infection, so travelers are urged to use the following mosquito bite prevention strategies. Please review these as well as the CDC travel guidelines.
Prevention of mosquito bites:
  • Use an effective insect repellent that contains DEET, Picaridin, PMD, or IR3535. 
  • When outdoors, wear clothing that covers most of your body (long sleeves, long pants, socks). 
  • Use permethrin (insecticide) treated clothing and gear, bed-nets, etc
  • Use "knock-down" insect spray to kill mosquitoes in your room. 
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms if possible.
Prevention of sexual transmission:
  • Sexual transmission of Zika from both infected men and women to their sex partners is possible and can occur through a range of sexual activity (vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral sex). The virus has been isolated from both semen and vaginal fluids, but how long it may persist in those fluids is unclear.
  • Individuals who have traveled to Zika endemic areas should use barrier protection (condoms) or abstinence to prevent sexual transmission to their partners. There are no specific guidelines for duration of precautions for individuals who are not planning pregnancy. Guidelines for prevention in the setting of pregnancy or planning pregnancy are below.
All travelers:
  • Monitor your health for two weeks.
  • If you develop symptoms, ensure that you see a doctor and advise them of your travel history. This is especially important if you are pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant.
  • Prevent sexual transmission (updated 6 September 2016). Anyone who has a pregnant partner should use condoms (applicable to males and females) or abstain for the duration of the pregnancy. For those whose partners are not pregnant, authorities differ in their recommendations for the duration for which precautions should continue. The World Health Organization advises that everyone should continue precautions for at least 6 months after return. The United States CDC advises: Men should continue precautions for at least 8 weeks if they did not have symptoms, but for at least 6 months if they did; Women to continue precautions for at least 8 weeks
  • Consider delaying pregnancy. The World Health Organization recommends couples or women planning a pregnancy, who have returned from an area with Zika transmission, to wait at least 6 months.
  • Prevent transmission to local mosquitoes. If you are returning to an area that has mosquitoes which can transmit Zika, continue to prevent mosquito bites for 2 to 3 weeks (e.g. using insect repellent). This will reduce the risk of infecting local mosquitoes with Zika, and therefore reduce the risk of an outbreak.
A special note for pregnant women: Please discuss your risks with your doctor and consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. In addition to the infectious risks of any destination, it is important to consider the standard of available healthcare, and the availability of obstetric and neonatal specialist support (should it be required). Many health authorities including the CDC and the World Health Organization advise pregnant women not to travel to areas with active transmission of Zika virus.

If you are pregnant and do travel to a Zika endemic area, consult with your doctor immediately after return. You may be advised to be tested for Zika whether or not you develop symptoms, and you may also require additional monitoring or specialist care.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact International Safety and Operations at:
Safe travels!