Zika Virus

Precautions urged if traveling to affected areas which include the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America

Western Michigan University students and employees traveling to warm destinations are urged to take precautions to avoid exposure to Zika virus. Preventing mosquito bites is the most effective way to avoid infection. At this time, no vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The mosquitos which spread the virus bite mostly during the daytime. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued travel notices for people going to places where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Dr. Lisa Marshall, director of the Sindecuse Health Center, recommends that students, faculty and staff traveling to affected areas take seriously the threat posed by Zika virus.  “If you are traveling to areas where Zika virus transmission has been confirmed, please use insect repellent and take precautions outlined by the CDC. If you believe you will be especially at risk, we invite you to make an appointment with the travel nurse.”

Visit the the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/ for updated information on the situation as it develops.

Prevention tips offered by the CDC include:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
  • Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing to prevent poor pregnancy outcomes.

Pregnant women, or women thinking about becoming pregnant, who travel to an affected area should talk to their healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.