The Zika Virus and Your Spring Break!

How to Plan your Vacation with Prevention in Mind

Zika virus has made international headlines, and locally transmitted Zika virus has now been confirmed in the United States. Before Wayne State students depart for their Spring Break adventures, we want you to be aware of this virus and how you can help protect yourself from it.

How is Zika virus transmitted and what are the symptoms?

Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread Chikungunya and dengue. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters, and they can also bite at night.

Zika virus is now believed to also be spread sexually. Not much is known yet about the sexual transmission of the virus, so anyone who has traveled to a high risk/infected area is strongly advised to wear condoms 100% of the time during ALL sexual contact to avoid spreading this virus to others. Of course we always recommend condom use, but this is especially important, not just while you are traveling but when you return as well. Condoms should be used for 90 days after returning from any of the high risk areas.

About one in five people infected with Zika virus will have symptoms. This means 80% of people do not even know they are infected! 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. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, and people rarely die.

Where is Zika virus normally found?

As of February 1, 2016, local transmission has been identified in at least twenty-five countries or territories in the Americas, including Puerto Rico. Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries. Zika virus will continue to spread, and it will be difficult to determine how the virus will spread over time.

If traveling, please visit the CDC Travelers’ Health site for the most updated travel information.

I’m going to an infected Zika virus destination for Spring Break. What do I do?

Ultimately, you need to decide whether you want to travel to an area with reported cases of Zika virus or high risk areas. When traveling to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

  • 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. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective.
    • Always follow the product label instructions.
    • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.

Planning ahead and being cautious while on vacation in high-risk area will help prevent possible exposure to Zika virus. For more information regarding Zika virus, please see the Campus Health Center’s FAQ page.

To make an appointment for any travel health concerns before you depart for your Spring Break, please call the Campus Health Center at 313-577-5041.


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