WHO information for travelers visiting Zika affected countries


GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department from the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, would like to share information released by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week with respect to travelers visiting Zika affected countries.

Based on available evidence, WHO has issued no general restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission.

However, WHO is advising pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. This advice is based on the increased risk of microcephaly and other congenital malformations in babies born to pregnant women infected with Zika virus. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth.

Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Zika virus can also be transmitted through sex.

Before travelling to Zika affected areas, travellers to areas with Zika virus outbreaks should seek up-to-date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.

While in Zika-affected areas, men and women should practice safer sex (including the consistent use of condoms) or abstinence to prevent Zika virus infection, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), other sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies.

To prevent mosquito bites during the trip, travellers are advised to: wear clothing – preferably light coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible; use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethyltoluamide), IR 3535 ((3- [N-butyl-N-acetyl], aminopropionic acid ethyl-ester) or KBR3023 (also called Icaridin or Picaridin).

Repellents may be applied to exposed skin or to clothing and must be used in strict accordance with the label instructions; if repellents and sunscreen are used together, sunscreen should be applied first and the repellent thereafter.

Use physical barriers such as regular or mesh screens or insecticide treated netting materials on doors and windows , or closing doors and windows; and sleep under mosquito nets, especially during the day, when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.

Upon return home, to prevent the onward transmission of Zika and adverse pregnancy and fetal outcomes, all returning travellers should practice safer sex, including through the correct and consistent use of condoms, or consider abstaining from sex for at least six months.

Travellers returning home should also continue to use insect repellent for at least three weeks to avoid being bitten and potentially spreading the infection to other people through mosquito bites.

Sexual partners of pregnant women should practice safer sex or abstain for at least the duration of the pregnancy.

The aforementioned advice is also relevant for Sint Maarten residents and visitors on what measures need to be taken to avoid being bitten by a mosquito.

CPS reminds the public to be vigilant and eliminate mosquito breeding sites in their surroundings.

For more information about Zika and prevention measures, you can call CPS 542-2078 or 542-3003.