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Zika Virus is a Growing Threat

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert for Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean as a result of an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The warning comes two weeks before the main Carnival festivities begin in Brazil and seven months before the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Health officials in Hawaii confirmed the first known instance of a Zika virus infection within the U.S. Since then, cases have been confirmed in Florida, Illinois and Texas. Twenty-one countries in the Americas have reported cases of the virus since Brazil reported the first cases of local transmission in May 2015. The virus is likely to spread to all but two countries in the Americas where Zika is not present, Canada and Chile.  

Brazil and other tropical regions are vulnerable to Zika, dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses because of the dense population and ineffective mosquito control measures.

Until now the virus has never before been detected in the Americas – it has only been identified in Africa, Asia and, most recently, the Pacific islands and Cape Verde. While the U.S. is considered vulnerable, many experts say Zika is unlikely to spread far outside tropical zones. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean remain most vulnerable. Symptoms can include fever, rash, and headache. Due to its mild symptoms, the Zika Virus often goes undiagnosed and people infected may not seek medical care. There is a particular concern for pregnant women as the virus can be spread to an unborn baby and has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly, which can cause abnormally small heads and serious, sometimes deadly, developmental delays. 

Given the fact that the virus is likely to spread across North and South America, if you are planning to travel to any region for business, or a spring getaway to Brazil’s Carnival or the upcoming Olympics, here is some guidance on how to protect yourself from the disease: 

  • Women who are pregnant should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
  • Take precautions by using insect repellents, covering exposed skin and keeping windows and doors closed.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse if you develop a fever with rash, joint pain or red eyes. Tell your doctor about any recent travel.
  • Take medicine, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain. Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
  • Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of liquids.

Learn more about other recent epidemics such as the measles outbreak in the U.S. and keeping Ebola risk in perspective.

Keep following the Crisis Management Center Blog, "Breaking News," for more updates, or contact a Risk Services advisor to help your business prepare for almost any type of public health crisis.