You've heard mention of the risk of Zika virus. Should you worry? Are there other health concerns for travel to Brazil? Here's the scoop. If you need physician consultation, consider using GlobalGoDoc. We'll sort out what you need and have it ready for you at the pharmacy.
Zika deserves your attention, but only if you're pregnant or a man OR woman planning to conceive soon. If you're not in this category, it's a relatively mild disease, and there's a good chance you won't notice you've had it.
It's been well established that it's associated with severe developmental abnormalities (microcephaly--a malformed skull and brain) in developing fetuses, so pregnant women are discouraged from visiting, unless there's a pressing case for visiting. It is thought the risk for pregnant women is greatest in the first trimester, so visiting later in pregnancy is lower risk. It is recommended that women wait for at least 8 weeks after returning from places like Brazil before attempting to get pregnant. Men can also pass the virus during sex if they have been infected. The recommendation is that men use condoms, or refrain from sex, for 8 weeks after return from Brazil. If a man or woman is known to have been infected, it is recommended that s/he wait 6 months before trying to conceive.
Zika can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites, so that's where you should focus your energy if you're going to Brazil. I'll write more about this in a future post, but briefly:
- Use DEET applied to your skin. Remember, the higher the concentration, the longer it will repel mosquitoes.
- Long sleeved clothing will protect you. This will likely be light clothing, so consider applying permethrin to your clothing to help repel mosquitoes.
- Sleep in a closed, air conditioned room or use a bednet to protect from mosquitoes.
Zika is old news, you say. Is there anything else to worry about? Here's the run down for health concerns while travelling in Brazil:
- Influenza is transmitted throughout the year in the tropics. If you haven't had this year's flu shot, it's recommended. It may be hard to get a hold of this late in the season, so plan ahead.
- Yellow Fever is endemic in several locations in Brazil, including Belo Horizonte, Brasilia and Manaus, where there will be soccer matches. If you're visiting these areas, or in doubt, get your Yellow Fever vaccine.
- The only city with concerns for malaria transmission that is on the Olympic circuit is Manaus. Malaria preventive medications are recommended. There are several other parts of Brazil that do have malaria, but aren't hosting Olympic events. Remember, malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, another great reason to avoid mosquito bites.
- Dengue is common in Brazil, but luckily the Olympics occur in the low transmission season. The only method for preventing Dengue is by preventing mosquito bites.
- As with travel to all tropical countries, consider the following:
- Hepatitis A vaccine
- Typhoid vaccine
- Travelers diarrhea is common and carrying medication to treat it may save your trip.