Spring Break Travel Warning Focuses on Zika Virus
By Veronica Carter, Indiana News Service
More cases of Zika virus continue to be diagnosed, but the Indiana Department of Public Health says there’s not likely to be an outbreak here.
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Spring break is the time of year when people often head to warm, tropical places for vacation. This year, pregnant women and their partners might want to rethink that, in light of health warnings about the Zika virus, which continues to spread in places such as Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Although a state resident was diagnosed with Zika last month, said Dr. Jen Brown, public health veterinarian at the Indiana Department of Health, she doesn’t expect a widespread outbreak here.
“The virus’ favorite mosquito is Aedes Aegypti, and that’s a mosquito that we don’t even have in Indiana,” she said. “We know this because we do very extensive surveillance for mosquitoes every year.”
Brown said the travel warning for pregnant women and their partners was issued because Zika has been associated with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and brain damage, in some cases. Brown urged anyone else traveling to the affected countries not to panic, but to take precautions because mosquitoes spread disease.
The Aedes Aegypti also is known as the “yellow fever” mosquito, Brown said, but added that Indiana’s climate and level of public sanitation would prevent a local outbreak.
“This is a virus that thrives in areas of dense human population, urban areas, and is often associated with poor sanitation,” she said, “because the mosquitoes that transmit the virus breed in standing water associated with human garbage.”
Brown said most people who contract the Zika virus don’t get sick, and only about one in five will feel mildly ill.
She said anyone traveling to climates where mosquitoes thrive is always encouraged to wear repellent and sleep in air-conditioned rooms or with mosquito nets. This particular mosquito is more determined to bite than some others, Brown said.
“These mosquitoes are a little bit more aggressive biters,” she said. “They’re active during the daytime and they do spend much more time in indoor areas than what we’re used to here at home.”
Although no travel bans have been issued – only advisories for pregnant women – Brown said to be warned because this mosquito is responsible for a lot of human illness.