Zika Precautions Urged for Georgia Travelers

December 1, 2017

ATLANTA - The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) cautions travelers, especially women who are pregnant, headed to countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others. Please note that Zika virus transmission is no longer ongoing in Miami, FL as of June 2, 2017.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe brain anomalies in infants. Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should not travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who have traveled to these areas should consult with their physician. Health care providers should ask all pregnant women about recent travel.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites and unprotected sexual contact with an infected person. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Most people infected with Zika virus do not exhibit symptoms.

Currently, there is no vaccine or medication for Zika. Travelers should check CDC travel advisories for their destinations and take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitos:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535 (use as directed)
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents)
  • Stay and sleep in a screened-in or air-conditioned room

No locally transmitted Zika cases have been reported in Georgia as of December 2017, but 120 cases of travel-associated Zika infection have been identified in the state. Zika cases visiting or returning to Georgia could result in local spread of the virus.

 “It is extremely important that individuals who have traveled to countries where there are on-going Zika virus outbreaks keep guard against additional mosquito bites,” said Cherie Drenzek, D.V.M, state epidemiologist for DPH. “During the first week or so of infection, Zika virus can be passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people.”

Zika virus can be transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which can be found in Georgia. These mosquitos bite mostly during the daytime, do not fly very far, and tend to live around homes. Additionally, Aedes species mosquitos breed in containers, so removing containers, dumping out standing water at least once a week, or using larvicides (ex: mosquito dunks or mosquito torpedoes) in standing water will reduce the number of these mosquitoes. 

For more information about Zika virus and current travel advisories, visit dph.georgia.gov or cdc.gov/zika.