Anyone can become infected with ZIKV if the circumstances are right. As a ZIKV vaccine has not yet been established, the mainstay of prevention is elimination of the vector, the mosquito. Nationwide campaigns have commenced in areas of active transmission in attempts to reduce the spread.
Travelers to these countries should follow recommendations from the CDC to reduce exposure to mosquitos, which include but are not limited to the following:
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
• Use insect repellant to reduce the number of mosquito bites (DEET is recommended but not required)
• Use door and window screens to keep mosquitos outside
• Frequently remove/empty standing bodies of water
If you have recently returned from an active area, the CDC recommends the above guidelines be followed for seven to 10 days to prevent mosquito bites even if asymptomatic.
As of February 2016, ZIKV illness is a nationally notifiable condition in the United States, and healthcare providers are encouraged to report suspect ZIKV cases to their state or local health departments. Researchers are currently investigating other transmission routes as well as the association among the virus, Guillain-Barré, and microcephaly.
Given the worldwide spread of other viral illnesses associated with globalization and climate change, as well as the unknown long-term impact of the virus, chances are we will continue to see ZIKV dominate news headlines for months to come. For an up to date list of countries with active transmission, the see the WHO website, www.who.int.