By Sarah Fielder
Students planning to travel to Central or South America during spring break March 13 through 20 should be aware of the spreading Zika virus.
“My first reaction was, ‘Oh this is like Ebola,’ because people were going crazy about this, people were tracking it to see when it would come here,” said junior public health science major Aileen Amador. “I wasn’t really sure what it was or what it did or anything like that until I started doing more research on it.”
The virus is transmitted primarily from mosquitoes to humans, but can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus or through sexual contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of the Zika virus include a fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes and usually remains in a person’s blood system up to a week, according to the CDC. Fetuses who become infected with the Zika virus may be born with microcephaly, “a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age,” according to the CDC.
David McBride, the director at the University Health Center at the University of Maryland, provided information about the Zika virus to students through email.
“The State is working to make testing available at the state lab, but currently testing is being done only at CDC,” wrote McBride in an email. “Specimens can be sent there when a conversation with a state epidemiologist deems this to be necessary.”
On Feb. 12, Hawaii Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency in Hawaii in regards to the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses, according to CNN.
“When traveling to a Zika affected area, practicing mosquito bite avoidance measures is advised,” McBride wrote.
People traveling to Zika infected countries should stay in hotels with air conditioning or screens on doors and windows, wear long-sleeved clothing and use insect repellant, according to the CDC.
Earlier in 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in areas with the Zika virus, according to the CDC.
“Definitely be very, very careful. The thing with the Zika virus is because it is carried mosquitoes; it would be very easy to get it,” said Amador. “Obviously you can take precautions like mosquito repellant and nets and stuff like that, but I would get tested when I came back.”
The virus has previously been reported in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, and the PHEIC was released after the virus was reported in Brazil, according to the CDC.