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Zika Outbreak

08.18.2016
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Updates on the Zika Virus for AIG Clients and Customers

AIG Travel is closely monitoring the outbreak of the Zika virus and will provide regular updates on this site for our clients and customers. The head of the World Health Organization has indicated that the Zika virus is now a global emergency. The virus is moving rapidly and can be found throughout the Americas – from Argentina to the Southern U.S.


Travel Guard® Health Advisory

Please read the latest Travel Health Advisory from AIG Travel, available in English, Français or Português.
Zika Virus Travel Health Advisory - 18 August 2016
Virus Zika, Recommandations sanitaires - 18 Août 2016
Virus Zika, Recomendações de saúde Português - 18 de Agosto 2016
Virus Zika, Asesoría en Salud - 18 de Agosto 2016

Webcast Recording

The following webcast replay includes a medical overview of the Zika virus, including signs and symptoms, prevention tips and risks associated with the Zika virus, as well as an overview what is happening on the ground in the Americas. 
AIG TRAVEL WEBCAST - UPDATE ON ZIKA VIRUS - 20 SEPTEMBER 2016
AIG TRAVEL WEBCAST ON ZIKA VIRUS - 8 FEBRUARY 2016

An Overview of the Zika Virus  

What is Zika?
Zika virus was first isolated in 1947, in a rhesus monkey at Uganda’s Zika Forest. Over the years, it spread to southeastern and southern Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Americas. While it can be particularly dangerous to fetuses and newborns, it is not generally dangerous to children or adults. 

About one in five people infected with the virus become ill. Most people infected with Zika virus have few or no symptoms. Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week. 

For those who do fall ill, The World Health Organization (WHO) says symptoms are usually mild and normally last two to seven days. Symptoms are similar to dengue and chikungunya and include:

Risk

Deaths and hospitalizations caused by the Zika virus are rare. However, fetuses and newborns are particularly at risk. Birth defects have been linked to the Zika virus, including severe brain damage in babies. Fetuses in the first trimester are particularly susceptible to birth defects from this virus, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Zika can also lead to miscarriages. 

The greatest risk of Zika complications may be to unborn babies.  In parts of Brazil, a marked increase in known cases of newborns with microcephaly, a serious birth defect, has occurred in babies born to mothers who were infected with Zika during their pregnancies.  However, the relationship between Zika and microcephaly has not been definitively established and, as of February 2016, is being investigated by health authorities in Brazil. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Zika can be passed from a mother to child during birth in rare cases. There have been no known cases of the virus passing from mother to child through breast milk. 

There is also evidence that Zika virus infections may be followed by a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is characterized by ascending paralysis, starting in the feet and legs and rising upwards. In severe cases, the muscles used for breathing become weak, and the person has to be placed on a ventilator for respiratory support.  In most cases, the person gradually recovers his or her strength over a period of weeks to months, but the recovery may not be complete. 

The relationship between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome is not as strong as that for microcephaly and the number of known cases is not as large. While the CDC has not issued a travel warning for these countries to those who are not pregnant, there is still cause for concern. Also, as of February 2, 2016, the CDC has confirmed test results that show Zika could be sexually transmitted. The CDC is doing more research to provide guidance; especially for the “male sexual partners of women who are or may be pregnant.

Treatment

Zika is typically diagnosed after a series of blood tests. However, these blood tests are not widely available.  There are no vaccines or medications available to prevent or treat Zika infections. If Zika is found, a medical professional will likely prescribe plenty of rest and fluids to help the body naturally combat the infection. Acetaminophen or paracetamol may also be used to help with fever and pain. 

Prevention

There are several ways to prevent Zika infection. 

Consider postponing or avoiding traveling to locations that are currently experiencing an outbreak. Reference the CDC map of countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission.

Locally-caused cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Miami, Florida, United States. 

The following options should be considered: 

  • Travelers planning to visit the affected areas should take individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites. 
  • Travelers that have immune disorders or severe chronic illnesses are advised to consult their doctor or seek medical advice from a travel clinic before traveling. 
  • Pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare providers, especially to areas with increasing or widespread transmission.
  • Individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites should be applied all day long, especially during mid-morning and late afternoon to dusk, which are the periods of highest mosquito activity.
  • Personal protection measures to avoid mosquito bites should include:
    • Using mosquito repellents in accordance with the instructions indicated on the product label. Most travelers should use preparations containing 25-50% DEET. Preparations containing higher concentrations of DEET carry greater toxicity with little additional benefit. Neurologic toxicity has been reported from DEET, especially in children, but appears to be uncommon and generally related to overuse. DEET-containing compounds should not be used on children under age two months.
    • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity.
    • Using mosquito nets is essential if accommodation is not adequately screened or air-conditioned.
  • Travelers showing symptoms compatible with dengue, chikungunya or Zika virus disease within three weeks after returning from an affected area should contact their healthcare provider.

  • Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should mention their travel during doctor visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately.

References

World Health Organization
Center for Disease Control
Pan American Health Organization

AIG Travel will use reasonable endeavors to ensure the accuracy of information contained herein as of the date this product is time stamped but all such information, given its nature, shall be subject to change or alteration at any time and the use of such information is at the sole discretion of the intended recipient(s). AIG Travel assumes no liability or responsibility for the use, interpretation or application of any of the information contained herein. The information contained in this material is for general informational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical problem.

RESOURCES

Zika Virus: Key Facts Travelers Need to Know

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