Is Zika Part of Your Summer Travels?
by Avery Phillips
Summer is usually the season of fun and vacation time; it’s the time of year most people go on road trips and travel to sunny beaches. However, health risks can completely remove the pleasure from your summertime adventures. Last year, the Zika virus Outbreak brought fear to some and life-altering birth defects to others.
It’s important that this summer we all take the necessary steps to make sure that Zika is not a part of our vacation plans.
Location, Location, Location
Zika is certainly an issue that impacts some places more than others. It’s important before you travel anywhere that you keep Zika in mind and stay informed on the CDC’s updates. The unfortunate reality is that low-altitudes correlate to the risk of Zika, which is very limiting when looking at typical summer vacation spots.
However, there are ways you can prepare for your summer travels so that you and your family are best protected from the virus.
One of the primary ways to do this is by analyzing which places have a higher Zika risk and avoiding them. Despite the imposing amounts of land area that carry the risk, there are locations that remain unaffected by the virus. Here are some examples of Zika-free vacation spots:
- The Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic has been hailed one of the best places to travel this year. The islands are an autonomous region of Portugal. Its landscapes of vast greenery and blue hydrangeas are enough to make anyone forget that virus-carrying mosquitoes exist at all.
- If you take a trip to Bermuda this summer, you won’t get lost in any ship-sized triangle, but you probably will get lost in its pink-sand beaches and rich mixture of British and American culture and history.
- Compared to other African countries, Madagascar is relatively safe. There will be no massive animals of prey stalking you through the bush. No venomous snakes lurking in the bathroom. And no Zika-infested mosquitoes. Instead, they have the lemurs that are native only to the island’s forests.
Whether you’re traveling to locations with Zika risk factors or not, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself and your family.
Pools are often a staple of summer vacations, but because mosquitoes can lay their eggs in even the smallest bodies of water, pools can potentially attract mosquitoes. However, pools that you and your family encounter, either on vacation or at home, are only a risk if they aren’t properly maintained.
When assessing whether or not a pool is protected from mosquitoes the major things that matter are the normal things. Is the pool’s pump working and preventing the water from sitting stagnant? Are cleaning methods like chlorine being utilized? If they aren’t, back away quickly. If at a hotel, bring it to their attention immediately!
Insect repellents have been proven effective when used as directed. If possible, use Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellents, and make sure the one you choose includes DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
The more barriers you can construct between your skin and possible mosquito offenders, the better. There are clothing brands that sell apparel treated to repel mosquitoes, but they’re no more effective than regular clothing sprayed with DEET. The important thing is to wear clothing that has long sleeves and pant legs.
When you’re not out adventuring, it’s best to sleep in a room with the windows sealed, and the air conditioning running. The AC keeps the temperature lower than what mosquitoes prefer, and it circulates the air making it harder for them to locate humans.
If you don’t have access to lodgings with AC, investing in screens or portable nets for travel will help keep your space insect-free.
A Zika-Free Future
At this point, these are the best tools available for combating the virus. However, there are innovators out there who are hopeful that there is a future that does not include the Zika virus.
A company that has already managed to utilize LED lights for impressive feats is studying which wavelengths of light different mosquitoes are attracted to, so that they can build LED traps just for Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Similarly, there are two companies working on full-blown solutions: one, by way of vaccine, the other, by wiping out the entire population of dangerous insects.
Thus, there is cause to be hopeful that summer-time will not always bring with it Zika-related fear. Until then, a traveler’s best bet is to plan smart and be prepared to prevent contact with the insects.
About the Author
Avery Phillips is a freelance human who loves all things nature (especially human!). Tweet her @a_taylorian or comment down below with any questions or concerns.