A travel alert from the Centers for Disease Control about the mosquito-borne virus called Zika raised concerns about contracting the disease worldwide. While the news reached a hype in 2016, the Zika virus is still around and still on the CDC's radar.
So, do you need to worry about the virus on your trip to Greece?
While Greece does have mosquito-borne diseases such as the West Nile virus, malaria, and other unusual tropical diseases, as of yet there are no reported cases of Zika in Greece.
Could Greece Get Zika-Carrying Mosquitos?
While Greece is not on the CDC's list of countries with the Zika virus or at-risk countries, travelers from other nations could become infected with the Zika virus and then travel to Greece. If Greek mosquitoes then bite that person, the disease could then be introduced to Greece and the Greek islands.
More About the Zika Virus
The CDC warns about traveling to areas affected by the Zika virus. It especially warns pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant, because the disease can cause microcephaly in the baby, a disorder resulting in a malformed brain and head. The first U.S. case of Zika-caused microcephaly was reported in Hawaii. While some doubted the connection between Zika and the birth defect, U.S. researchers found the virus in both the mother who had spent part of her pregnancy in Brazil and the infant.
The CDC warning applies to all women who are pregnant at any point in their pregnancies and also to those who are considering becoming pregnant, recommending that these women contact their doctors before traveling to an area with Zika.
The Zika virus has existed for years, but it has been largely ignored since the symptoms it causes are usually mild and go away without treatment. It's only more recently that the connection between Zika and sometimes-fatal microcephaly in infants has been recognized. The mosquitoes that spread Zika are primarily Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
Avoid Zika Exposure in Greece
What can you do to avoid Zika while traveling in Greece, even though it remains Zika-free? The precautions are the same as you would take to avoid a mosquito-borne illness of any type.
- Use mosquito repellents that you like enough to actually use. Bring your own supply. If Zika is discovered in Greece during your trip, repellents may suddenly become scarce and hard to find on the shelves.
- Cover as much of your skin as possible with long-sleeved blouses and shirts and long pants and socks. You may want to consider bringing a hat with a neck flap as well, as this is an area that is often unprotected and is particularly tempting for the insects. Planning to sleep with the windows open so you can listen to the waves at night? A long-sleeved sleep shirt or other nightwear might be helpful.
- Avoid areas where mosquitoes are known to congregate. Greece is fortunate in that many areas that are subject to strong winds and dry conditions, which do not foster the development of mosquito larvae, especially in many of the drier Greek islands. However, any place that has standing water can become a haven for these disease-bearing insects so everyone needs to be reasonably careful.
- If you are going to a site that is near a swampy area, try to do so during the heat of the day, when bites are less likely.
Plan Your Trip to Greece
Here are some resources to help you plan your trip to Greece: