So we haven’t stopped complaining about summer’s ever-so-slow arrival to Buenos Aires this year and today it not only hit us, it hit us hard and has had everyone looking for an ocean-side escape. And by ocean, I mean Brazil because let’s face it, the crystal clear water, white sand and palm tree combo is the dream. Sorry Mar del Plata. You’re a close second.
But don’t rush to Ezeiza so fast! A tropical disease called the Zika Virus is spreading across Brazil and is already active in eight other Latin American countries. It’s mild and probably no reason for concern, but basic precautions should be taken.
The Health Ministry released a statement with a list of precautions in accordance with the alert recommendations issued by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to be taken by those traveling around the region during the holidays in order to avoid having the virus enter Argentina. Here they are:
- Avoid visiting places with mosquitoes (*face palm*)
- Use tropical insect repellent
- Wear light-colored clothes with long sleeves (especially at sunset — which is when our tans look best. Damn it.)
- Throw out all kinds of useless containers such as cans, buckets, tires and other items that can hold water or keep tanks covered and containers used to collect water (that’s because mozzies love humidity)
- In case of fever during the trip, go to a local health center, don’t self-medicate
- If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before traveling to a zone where the virus is active (there is a risk of congenital malformation if pregnant women become infected during the first or second trimester. According to Vox, Zika has been linked to “terrible birth defects like microcephaly, which causes babies’ brains and heads to stop growing to full size.”)
What actually is this Zika virus?
Experts are still learning a lot about the tropical disease but here is what we know:
- Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947
- The virus was first noticed in the Americas in 2014
- It is still quite rare and hard to detect
- The mortality rate is low
- The symptoms are “mild” (see below) and show up between 3 and 12 days after being bitten
- The symptoms usually go away within seven days
- One in four people don’t develop any symptoms after being infected with the virus
- Zika evolved from the dengue virus and yellow fever, both of which are transmitted through Aedes mosquito bites, in urban and jungle areas
What are the symptoms?
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- No purulent conjunctivitis
And according to the BBC, on very rare occasions: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
How can the virus be treated?
There is no vaccine or specific medication. The only advice is to rest, stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water and take paracetamol to control body temperature.
Where is this Zika Virus active?
Thankfully, not yet in Argentina. And since for the most part, this isn’t a “tropical” country, we are at less risk than our neighbors when it comes to virus-carrying mosquitoes. According to the PAHO, it is however in Brazil, Chile (on Easter Island), Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.
So chances are you’re fine and don’t have to worry about this. But, as always, better safe than sorry: so if you are going to Brazil or any of the other eight countries where the virus is active during the holidays, make sure you take precautions. Try not to come back to friends and family in Argentina contaminated. We doubt they will appreciate the Christmas present.