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Science, Health, Tech

Zika virus is changing the way doctors and patients discuss travel

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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A recent surge in the amount of Zika virus cases in the United States suggests that doctors and patients should have more conversations about upcoming travel.

Delaware, so far, has reported 10 cases of Zika, a virus primarily spread through mosquitoes. With an outbreak reported in Florida this week, sparking the Centers for Disease Control to issue a travel warning for Miami, the way doctors and patients talk about travel in association with Zika may be changing.

“Doctors need to obviously, put that into their practice,” said Dr. Stephen Eppes, the associate director of Infection Prevention at Christiana Care Health System. “It’s hard to know exactly how well that’s going. I think individual doctors probably vary in the amount of attention they pay to this. I think it’s very important for patients to also advocate for their own health and stay current.”

Eppes said returning travelers who may have been exposed to the virus should be aware of that. Travel restrictions emphasize pregnant women, as a pregnant woman who contracts the virus can give it to the developing fetus, causing microsephaly in the brain, among other birth defects.

It is not required that returning travelers be tested for Zika, but it is recommended that pregnant women and those who suspect they have symptoms of Zika, do.

“Travelers returning from a Zika endemic area should either refrain from sex or use effective barrier prevention methods for a period of time after they return from travel,” Eppes said. “These travelers may wish to consult their doctors regarding the specific recommendations.”

Almost 60 countries are affected by Zika. Conversations about Zika seem to be prevalent among athletes and tourists planning to travel for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics.

“Even though it’s winter in Brazil there’s the opportunity for mosquito transmissions to occur and people returning to their home countries bringing the Zika virus with them,” Eppes said. “So it really is a major public health threat and people should take the advice of public health authorities.”

But Cindy McCabe, the owner of Bethany Travel/Dream Vacations in Millsboro said she has not heard of any concerns from patrons traveling to regions with a high presence of mosquitos.

“We’ve had no cancellations because of (Zika),” McCabe said.

 

McCabe said Bethany Travel/Dream Vacations informs their patrons to take precautions about Zika, be proactive and travel with bug spray.

“If you use precaution, everyone will be fine,” McCabe said. “It’s a personal choice, but it really hasn’t come up that much in conversation.”

The Zika virus was discovered in 1947, but had not surfaced much in conversation until a few months ago.