(QCOSTARICA) Avoiding Zika is no longer an option of saying “I’ll just avoid places where there’s Zika”. According to the CDC, the Zika virus been reported in all countries in the Americas with the exception of Canada and and Chile.
In Costa Rica, the Ministerio de Salud (Ministry of Health) for the week ended September 7, 2106, reports 946 cases of the Zika virus. Click here for the latest Health bulletin.
The Zika Virus in Costa Rica (from the CDC)
Because Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, CDC recommends that travelers to Costa Rica protect themselves from mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that spread Zika usually do not live at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) because of environmental conditions. Travelers whose itineraries are limited to areas above this elevation are at minimal risk of getting Zika from a mosquito. The following map shows areas of Costa Rica above and below 6,500 feet.* For more information, see Questions and Answers: Zika risk at high elevations.
It’s important to note that Zika is not particularly new, and that it’s relatively mild in comparison to other mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
The virus was first discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda, and over the course of the following decades, it spread across central Africa, and eventually into South Asia. From here, it hopped to the Pacific Islands, and in 2015, it made its way to the Americas.
Researchers did not spend much time on Zika prior to 2015, mostly because it was a relatively mild fever. This changed after the outbreak in Brazil, where there were an estimated 1.5 million people who were infected with the virus.
Click here for the CDC’s All Countries & Territories with Active Zika Virus Transmission
Most people are not in serious danger when it comes to Zika.
The first thing we need to mention, when it comes to Zika, it is not a severe illness for most people. Symptoms include rashes, fever, conjunctivitis, and joint pain, but many people who are infected with Zika will never actually know they are sick. If you do get the symptoms, they will last up to a week, and after that, you will be immune. The disease itself will leave your body in a matter of weeks (though there’s some evidence that it stays in semen longer), and once it has left your system, you are immune. It is rarely fatal.
The only people for whom Zika is seriously dangerous is pregnant women and their unborn children. Scientists are still working to understand exactly how and when Zika causes the problems that lead to microcephaly, but if you are a woman and you are not pregnant, you do not need to worry — if you do get Zika, you simply need to wait for the virus to work its way through your system before getting pregnant. As long as you are on birth control (and are taking it properly), you should be fine. If you are exposed to Zika (by, say, traveling to a place where Zika is an issue), the CDC recommends waiting 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
Zika can be transmitted sexually from men to women, and there’s evidence Zika can last longer in semen, so the CDC recommends that men who have traveled to places with Zika and who have developed symptoms wait 6 months before trying to get pregnant with their partner.
If you return from a trip to a Zika zone, even if you don’t develop symptoms of Zika after traveling to a Zika zone, you could still have it, and the responsible thing to do is to take steps to make sure you don’t transmit it to someone else. This means you should wear insect repellent for three weeks after exposure.
If you’re a sexually active man, wear a condom — 8 weeks after exposure, 6 months after symptoms. If you’re a woman, there’s very little chance you’ll transmit it sexually.
If you develop symptoms, see a doctor. They’ll decide whether or not to test you for the virus.
If you live in a Zika zone, bear in mind that mosquitos breed in or near standing water. If there’s a place around your house that has standing water, cleaning it or turning it over once a week will help. Mosquitoes are primarily active during the daytime. This doesn’t mean the disease can’t be transmitted by them at night — just that it’s most likely during the day.
The long and short of it, though, is that you should not panic about Zika. If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about the disease, and avoid traveling to Zika zones. If you aren’t pregnant and don’t plan on getting pregnant, don’t worry: just be diligent about birth control and bug spray.
Read the original report by the Matador Network here.