Zika Virus Notice and Resources

January 28, 2016

Recently there has been significant news coverage about the Zika Virus, which is spread to people through mosquito bites. Zika is in the same family of viruses that cause widespread morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Some of the mosquitoes-transmitted viruses in this family of viruses include: Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile viruses, as well as Zika virus. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. 

In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.

According to the CDC, pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

Women trying to become pregnant who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip. Visit the CDC for more information about the Zika Virus and pregnancy.

The epidemiology of Zika virus is of concern as evidence has emerged supporting increased transmission in the Caribbean and Central and South America.  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika Virus transmission is ongoing. Specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to change over time. Please visit the CDC Travelers' Health site for the most updated information.  Also, as understanding of the epidemiology, clinical and public health aspects of the current Zika virus situation improves, recommendations are likely to change.

SMHS has many students, faculty, and residents working and traveling abroad, therefore, we are monitoring this situation closely. If you have any questions or concerns about upcoming travel related to SMHS, please contact the Office of International Medicine Programs at impinfo@gwu.edu or by calling 202 994 2796.

For more information about the Zika Virus, you can reference CDC resources.

Resources from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Mosquito Bite Prevention for Travelers (PDF)

Mosquito Bite Prevention - United States (PDF)

Help Control Mosquitoes that Spread Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika Viruses (PDF)

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