If you've done research on visiting Mexico recently, then you're sure to have seen several references to the Zika virus. The virus, spread by mosquitoes, has been reported in Mexico by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the form of local transmission. With that being said, the presence of the Zika virus should not prevent you from taking your vacation. For the sake of sharing good information and peace of mind, here is what you should know about Zika:
Risk of Zika
Generally the risk of Zika is fairly low in Mexico. There were around 300 cases reported in the first 5 months of 2016 compared to over 140,000 in Brazil and 2900 in the Dominican Republic. The risk is likely to be a bit higher later this year in the wet season of September and October.
The risk of Zika above 6500 feet of elevation is essentially zero. However, most popular tourist areas are below that elevation. Again, there is not a great risk anywhere in Mexico at this point.
Personal Experience at Grand Mayan and Grand Luxxe
When we were last at the Vidanta resorts in Cabo and in Nuevo Vallarta (Grand Mayan and Grand Luxxe) they were diligently spraying for mosquitoes. We saw one mosquito the whole time we were there. Interestingly, there was a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia when we were staying on the island of Moorea two years ago. The French hotel manager had Zika with symptoms of a headache , a rash and a fever. This was before anyone in the Americas had ever heard of Zika .
For the average person, Zika presents itself as a fever, rash, joint pain, and redness in the eyes. Most individuals who contract Zika will be unaware of it, because only 1 in 5 people display symptoms. The general side effects of Zika are most commonly very mild, and if presented, are easily treatable at home. Very rarely does the virus cause any severe complications.
Risk to Pregnant Women
For a pregnant woman, Zika poses the greatest risk. An expectant mother can pass the disease on to her unborn child, leading to the potential of a miscarriage. A fetus infected with Zika is more likely to be born with serious birth defects, including microcephaly, a severe defect of the brain that can be fatal.
The Zika virus, as aforementioned, is most commonly spread through mosquitoes. When bitten by an infected mosquito, the individual has the possibility to contract the disease. If symptoms are presented, they will usually last from several days to a week. The mosquito that can spread Zika is the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that also spreads Dengue fever. It is very different from the malaria carrying Anopheles mosquito. The Aedes Aegypti is common in urban areas and bites during the day. It is most commonly found in poorer areas with old tires and other water retaining items . By contrast, the malaria mosquito feeds in the late evening and at night.
Zika virus also has the potential to be transmitted sexually by men. Any form of sexual contact has the possibility of passing the disease from a male to his partner. Because of this, the CDC recommends couples to have protected sex for up to 8 weeks after exposure. If a man has displayed symptoms of Zika after exposure, the CDC recommends protection for up to 6 months.