Zika Virus in Central America
What is the current situation?
In November 2015, the first local transmission of Zika virus infection in Central America was reported in El Salvador. Local transmission means that mosquitoes in the area have been infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people. Zika virus is now being reported in other countries in Central America.
As of December 10, 2015, the following Central American countries have reported cases of Zika virus:
CDC recommends that travelers to Central America protect themselves from mosquito bites. The Ministry of Health of Brazil is concerned about a possible association between the Zika virus outbreak and increased numbers of babies born with birth defects. For this reason, pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
What can travelers do to prevent Zika virus infection?
There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent Zika virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use an insect repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as directed.
- Higher percentages of active ingredients provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
- DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.)
- Picaridin (Also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin. Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan [outside the United States].)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel.)
- IR3535 (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart.)
- Always follow product directions and reapply as directed:
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first, let it dry, then apply insect repellent.
- Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, or mouth.
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
- Clothing treated with permethrin remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
If you feel sick and think you may have Zika virus infection:
- Talk to your doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
- Tell them about your travel.
- For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad and a list of International Joint Commission-accredited facilities.
- Get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.
- Avoid spreading the disease by preventing additional mosquito bites.
- Avoid Bug Bites-information for travelers
- Insect Repellent Use and Safety
- CDC Zika website
- Zika virus: What you need to know
- Mosquito bite prevention for travelers