Zika virus info for students, faculty, staff traveling to impacted areas
Traveling to a warm destination for Spring Break? Here’s what you need to know about Zika virus.
- It’s spreading across tropical regions.
- It’s generally not a significant health threat to most people, unless you are pregnant or become pregnant when exposed, or become pregnant from a male partner who is infected with the virus.
- The virus is thought to cause birth defects if either a male or female partner is carrying the virus at conception, or if the mother becomes infected during pregnancy.
- Only about 1 in 5 people who contract Zika will experience symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. Symptoms develop within about two weeks of infection. In general, people usually don’t get sick enough to be hospitalized, and usually feel better within a few days to a week.
- The virus is transmitted in two ways: via a bite from an infected mosquito, and through sexual contact with an infected person. You can protect yourself from the risk of Zika.
- Use a bug repellent containing DEET
- As always, practice safe sex by using a condom for all sexual activity if you have traveled to a Zika-infected area.
Zika virus is emerging as a concern across the globe; scientists are still learning about the virus and its impacts. A team of Colorado State University researchers, in fact, is hard at work to learn more about Zika virus.
Students, faculty and staff should be familiar with Zika virus if they plan to travel to an impacted country, or are intimate with someone who has recently visited or is traveling to an impacted country.
The US government is warning against travel to regions linked to Zika virus if you are pregnant, or if you may become pregnant in the next several months (including male partners of females who may conceive).
If you are a student traveling abroad for academic reasons, check with International Programs – Education Abroad for more information specific to the destination you plan to travel to.
What is Zika virus?
Zika virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but can be spread through sexual contact by a man to his sex partners. Mosquitoes that spread the virus are a specific species of mosquito, and they must be infected with the virus. Zika virus may be linked to birth defects.
Zika is not a new virus (it was first discovered in 1947), but it is spreading to new countries and areas at a rapid rate, creating more concern. It is currently in warm or tropical climate areas, where the specific species of mosquito (which cannot survive in Colorado’s cold climate) that carries the virus is present.
For the 1-in-5 people who develop symptoms, Zika virus infection can feel like the flu or other viral infections such as dengue fever, which is also common in tropical areas. Some people report migraine-like symptoms, rash, joint pain and read eyes. Symptoms develop within two weeks of infection and, in general, people do not get sick enough to be hospitalized and usually feel better within a few days to a week.
The virus can survive in an infected person’s saliva, urine, blood, semen and other bodily fluids for some time. Scientists are still trying to learn more about how long the virus can survive in some fluids, and how it is transmitted to others.
Researchers do not yet know if a woman can transmit Zika virus to her sex partners.
Where is Zika virus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other national and international health agencies, tracks locations where Zika virus has been reported. A map with the current areas where the virus has been reported is here. Where the virus will spread is unpredictable, but locations will change with time.
If you’re traveling to or near a country where Zika has been reported, read travel advisories related to Zika virus in your area of destination.
Why should I be concerned about Zika virus?
Anyone visiting an area where infected mosquitoes are present are at risk. And, anyone who is intimate with a man who is infected is also at risk. Most people who contract Zika virus will recover without significant health impacts, but for women who are pregnant at the time they contract the virus, there is a risk to the fetus for birth defects. Scientists are still learning about how long the virus may impact a fetus if a parent is infected at the time of conception.
A person may be infected with Zika virus and not know; only about 1 in 5 people who contract Zika will experience symptoms.
Sexual transmission can occur from men that do not show symptoms or before, during and after the onset of symptoms. Zika has been linked to birth defects.
For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control’s Zika virus online resources.
I’m traveling to a country where Zika virus has been identified. What should I do?
If you are traveling to or near a country where Zika has been reported, read travel advisories related to Zika virus in your area of destination.
The best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites by taking common steps to avoid bug bites such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent, and taking other general precautions.
Since Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact, men and women should follow recommended precautions if they are sexually active and if a male partner has traveled to a country with a Zika presence.
The CDC recommends using condoms if a male may be infected. It is unknown how long the virus may be present and transmitted sexually; the current recommendation is that males who are in or who have returned from a Zika-infected area use condoms until additional information about the duration of time after exposure that the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact is determined. Experts believe this advice will be available through the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention within the next few weeks. See more recommendations.
Females who are infected with the Zika virus may transmit the virus to her fetus during pregnancy or near the time of birth, but this transmission is rare. However, Zika virus may be linked to severe birth defects in these cases. Advice for pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant is available. The CDC recommends that both women who are trying to get pregnant and their partners talk with their health care provider before travel to areas where Zika virus is present.