If you're contemplating travel to Mexico during the Zika virus outbreak, you may be concerned about how the virus may impact your visit. The Zika virus is becoming a cause for concern throughout the world but seems to be spreading particularly quickly in the Americas. There have been very few cases of Zika in Mexico and it is generally not a major concern for travelers, however, women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant should take special care.
What is the Zika virus?
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that, like dengue and chikungunya, is contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The Aedes aegypti is the species of mosquito that transmits all of these viruses. There is some evidence that Zika may also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person.
What are the symptoms of Zika?
Most people infected with the virus (about 80%) do not show any symptoms at all, those who do may experience fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. They usually recover within about a week. However, the virus is of particular concern for pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant, as it may be related to birth defects such as microcephaly; infants born to women infected with Zika while pregnant may have small heads and underdeveloped brains. At present there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus.
How widespread is Zika in Mexico?
The countries with the highest number of cases of Zika so far are Brazil and El Salvador.
The first confirmed cases of Zika in Mexico were detected in November 2015. The Zika virus is spreading rapidly, and any area where the Aedes aegypti lives may be susceptible to an outbreak. The pictured map shows the number of confirmed cases of Zika in each Mexican state as of April 2016. Chiapas is the state with the most cases, followed by the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
The Mexican government is taking measures to stop the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses with campaigns to eliminate or treat the areas where mosquitoes breed.
How to avoid the Zika virus
If you are not a woman of childbearing age, the Zika virus is unlikely to cause you any trouble. If you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to avoid travel to places where the Zika virus has been detected. Everyone should protect themselves against mosquito bites because they can also transmit other diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.
To protect yourself, choose hotels and resorts that have screens over the windows or have air conditioning so that mosquitoes don't enter your lodgings. If you think there may be mosquitoes where you're staying, ask for a mosquito net over your bed, or use a plug-in coil repellent. When outdoors, especially if you're in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent, wear loose clothes that cover your arms, legs and feet; choose light colored clothing and natural fibers for most comfort when the weather is hot. Use insect repellent (experts recommend using repellent with DEET as the active ingredient), and re-apply frequently.