With an estimated 500,000 foreign tourists making their way to Brazil for this year’s Olympic games, there are major concerns that the thousands of people heading for Rio from around 200 countries could cause the Zika virus to spread faster and wider across the world than has been seen thus far.
Although the World Health Organisation has dismissed the idea that the Olympic games should either be delayed, move or cancelled all together, many professionals, tourists, and athletes have expressed concerns. The most high-profile withdrawal in recent weeks has been golfer Rory McIlroy who joins a growing list of sportspeople choosing not to travel to the Games. It was also revealed in the news in May that British longer jumper, Greg Rutherford has even resorted to freezing his sperm before attending the Games.
If you are planning to make the trip to Rio this summer or visit one of the 44 countries currently affected by the Zika, it is important to understand the dangers the virus may pose to you and what exactly you can do to protect yourself. Here’s a short introduction.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is transferred by the Aedes mosquito and can be sexually transmitted between partners and transferable through blood and semen.
Although the Zika virus can often remain undetected in patients, recognisable symptoms are similar to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya – symptoms include fevers, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle pain and fatigue.
A major concern with the Zika virus is the effect it on pregnant women. A pre-natal Zika virus infection has the potential to cause the birth abnormality microcephaly in newborns.
How to protect against the Zika Virus
Protect against bites:
If you do decide to go ahead with your travel plans, it is absolutely vital to protect yourself against mosquito bites to minimise the risk of contracting the virus. This includes regular application of mosquito repellant, containing at least 40% of the chemical DEET. Another simple measure to take is to cover up your skin as much as possible. This is crucial as the Aedes mosquito is active throughout the day and not just late in the evening.
Mosquito bites are regularly suffered at night while people are sleeping and unable to swat away insects. To reduce the risk of this occurring, it is advisable to close windows and doors, relying instead on air conditioning to keep your bedroom or suite cool. However, the most effective preventative measure is the use of mosquito nets, which can be used whether you choose to stay in a hotel room or in a tent.
Do not leave stagnant pools of water
As mosquitos breed in standing water, it is crucial to make sure you do not leave water to stagnate around your living space. Tip out all water and get rid of anything that may collect water like plant pots or vases.
Use protection or abstain from sex
As the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted it is important to use condoms at all times to avoid the exchange of bodily fluids.
Advice for women
It is strongly recommended that women of child-bearing age do not travel to areas where they are likely to contract the Zika virus due to its effect on unborn children. If you are a woman actively trying for a baby or currently pregnant it is recommended to entirely avoid high-risk areas.
Whatever your travel plans this summer, ensure you are well protected and make sure you thoroughly research your destination to make for a safe and stress-free holiday.