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Spring break travelers urged to protect against Zika

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Traveling for spring break? The California Department of Public Health is advising those heading to warmer climates to take precautions, like protecting themselves from mosquito bites and avoiding unprotected sex, in areas where there is transmission of the Zika virus.

Any travel to Mexico and most of Latin America to be a potential risk for Zika virus infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transmission of the Zika virus has been reported throughout Mexico, including states with popular tourist destinations like Ensenada, a coastal city approximately 85 miles south of San Diego, Baja California Sur (Cabo San Lucas) and Sonora, which borders Arizona.

“Spring break is the perfect time to have fun in the sun, but it is important that people take precautions to prevent Zika,” CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the mosquitoes that spread Zika enjoy warm weather too.”

From the state Health Department:

“Zika virus can spread through mosquito bites and can also be transmitted by both men and women during sex. Sexually active people who travel to areas with Zika transmission should use condoms or other barriers to avoid getting or passing Zika. Condoms will help reduce the chance of sexual transmission of the Zika virus, but should not be the only form of contraception for pregnancy prevention. Most people who are infected with Zika do not experience symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes), but they should still take precautions to avoid sexual transmission.

In particular, young women who could become pregnant, pregnant women and couples considering pregnancy need to be cautious because Zika virus can cause severe birth defects. Couples planning pregnancy when either partner has been exposed to Zika virus should speak with a health care provider about a safe time to try to get pregnant. A health care provider can also provide information on the most effective contraceptive methods. Pregnant women are urged to avoid travel to areas with known Zika transmission if at all possible. If travel is necessary, it is extremely important to take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

While there has been no local transmission of Zika virus in California to date, CDPH has confirmed 524 cases of travel-associated infections in the state. Florida and Texas have experienced locally transmitted cases of Zika.

People traveling to areas with known Zika transmission should take steps to avoid mosquito bites:

· Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol for long-lasting protection. If using sunscreen and insect repellent, apply sunscreen first and then the repellent. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should choose an EPA-registered insect repellent and use it according to the product label. Do not use insect repellent on infants less than two months of age.

· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

· Use air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If mosquitoes may come indoors, sleep under a bed net.

· Reduce the number of mosquitoes outside by emptying standing water from containers, such as flowerpots and buckets.”

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