It's not uncommon for a new bride to be pregnant or become pregnant on her honeymoon, or for a couple to plan a last childfree trip to the tropics while they're expecting. Now, depending on where a woman and her partner choose to go, the threat posed by the rapidly spreading Zika virus should be a factor in those plans.
What is the Zika Virus?
Transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, most people infected by the Zika virus show mild or no symptoms.
The great cause for concern, however, is that doctors and scientists believe that a bite from this mosquito leads to serious birth defects in children born to pregnant women who have been bitten.
Where has the Zika Virus Occurred?
Currently the Zika virus has been found in multiple tropical countries and is reportedly spreading. At this writing, cases have been reported in the following:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Cape Verde
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Mexico (3 states)
- Puerto Rico
- St. Barts
- St. Eustatius
- St. Lucia
- St. Maarten/St. Martin
- Saint Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
- Turks & Caicos
- U.S. Virgin Islands
Outbreaks of Zika virus also have been previously reported in Africa and islands in the Pacific.
It has also been reported in many United States, with Miami, Florida registering the highest number of cases.
Can the Zika Virus be Avoided?
Currently there is no commercially available test for Zika virus, preventative drug, vaccine or treatment.
What Do the Experts Advise?
According to the Center for Disease Control:
"Until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctors or other healthcare providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare providers before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip."
According to About.com's Travel Insurance Expert:
"In select situations, airlines are allowing travelers to cancel their trips over Zika virus concerns. However, travel insurance providers may not be as generous to those traveling to affected regions."
According to About.com's Caribbean Expert:
"Should you postpone your Caribbean vacation over fears of Zika? If you're pregnant, the answer could be yes. If you're not, probably not: symptoms of the disease are relatively mild, especially compared to other tropical diseases, and Zika remains relatively rare in the Caribbean."
According to About.com's Mexico Expert:
"As of late January 2016, there have been 18 confirmed cases of Zika in Mexico since it was first detected in November 2015. Of the cases contracted in Mexico, they were infected in the states of Chiapas (10 cases), Nuevo Leon (4 cases), and Jalisco (1 case)."
- Don't panic and rush to cancel a honeymoon in a hot spot if you are not pregnant and practice safe birth control.
- Pack mosquito repellent and use it consistently and according to directions. Bull Frog Mosquito Coast combines a DEET-free repellant that works up to 8 hours with SPF 30 sunblock in a spray that has a pleasant fragrance.
- If you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant during your honeymoon, consider visiting the USA, Canada, Europe and other northern regions where no outbreaks have been reported.
- If you are pregnant and become infected by the Zika virus, a safe and legal abortion in the United States is an option. In many of the countries where the virus is prevalent, abortion is banned.
- In no rush to take a honeymoon? Wait until news of a Zika virus vaccine is reported and becomes widely available, and then travel where your heart desires.
Where to Find Out More About the Zika Virus
Learn more from these reputable sources:
- The New York Times
- National Geographic
- National Institutes of Health
- Pan-American Health Organization