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Mexico/South American Travel Fears with Zika Virus

It was only a few weeks ago that the Zika virus dominated the news, worrying holidaymakers, particularly pregnant women, with holidays booked in South America and Mexico.

Other news stories are now dominating the headlines, but the Zika virus hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s still a major health concern for those living in the region or wishing to visit.

Many UK travellers are still confused, concerned and anxious about the health implications of travelling to one of our favourite South American holiday hot spots.

So what is the advice from the Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)?

In line with the World Health Authority (WHO), which issued its latest official statement on the 1st February 2016, there is a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ surrounding those countries infected. However, this ‘Concern’ does not prohibit travel; it means that all travellers should be aware of the risks associated with travelling to infected countries.

Travel is not advised if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.

But please also note that what has not been widely covered in the media is that those with serious health conditions should also avoid travelling to Zika infected countries.

How is it spread?
The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes. It was first discovered in 1947, in Uganda, in monkeys living in the Zika forest.

Symptoms
The actual infection itself is quite mild, with cold and flu like symptoms arising, along with a temperature, sore eyes and conjunctivitis, headache and swollen joints. This usually lasts around 7 days. There is no particular treatment, simply rest, plenty of fluids and ibuprofen.

Prevention
There is no vaccination to prevent against the Zika virus. The only preventative measures a traveller can take is to be extremely aware of the risks posed when visiting infected countries and use a high-quality insect repellent at all times during the day, reapplying regularly; use mosquito nets over beds at night and for daytime naps; and consider buying the plug-in mosquitoes vapour boxes for your accommodation.

For your information, here are details to bear in mind when travelling to Zika infected countries:

  • Before travelling, always check the Foreign and Commonwealth's website for the latest advice on your destination: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
  • Visit your Doctor 4-6 weeks before travelling to any South American country to seek advice on vaccinations that may be needed.
  • Substantial travel insurance with health care is essential. However, please note that many hospitals in Mexico, and other such countries, will require payment for treatment as it is administered. You will then have to claim reimbursement from your insurance company on your return.
  • Do not drink tap water, and ask for drinks without ice – only drink bottled or boiled water.
  • Mexico City has a high altitude and many travellers suffer from altitude sickness. Speak to your Doctor for some anti-sickness tablets that may help relieve symptoms. Symptoms include nausea and fatigue.

If you are in need of immediate emergency attention you can dial the following numbers for an ambulance - 060, 065, 066 or 068.

Stay up to date with the latest news on the Zika virus by visiting the FCO website.