Zika virus and why we’re still travelling – just not while we’re pregnant or TTC

Zika. Zika. Zika.

Before last week I’d never heard this word. Of course, now, I’ve plowed through pictures of babies born with microcephaly, researched where the virus originated, and read a mountain of travel warnings, hysterical commentary and those that are downplaying any risk. Some countries are much more concerned than others – Brazil has seen an exponential spike in cases of microcephaly, causing the warnings and interest, and The Washington Post reports that El Salvador has asked its population to postpone families for two years – just to be safe.

FEATURE sun destination - zika virus
photo by: Stefano Ravalli

Zika virus is like any other virus. Mosquitos carry and transmit this virus. If you get infected, you may or may not feel significant symptoms. You may get a low-grade fever, feel crummy, develop a rash, have redness and sore eyes and have muscle stiffness. Doesn’t sound any worse than a mild flu.

Except if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive (TTC).

It seems the risk is only to those who are pregnant or going to conceive imminently. There is a travel advisory to act with caution and avoid mosquito bites. According to the CDC:

If infected, Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week. The virus will not cause infections in a baby that is conceived after the virus is cleared from the blood.

So, should you travel? You need to decide for yourself, and we’re neurotic, so we always err on the side of caution – far, far, far on the side of caution – but for this one, we think it’s a limited concern. We wouldn’t go while pregnant or trying to conceive – goodness knows we already have the pressure of “advanced maternal age” and other high-risk issues, but as long as we’re not pregnant or TTC, we’re beach bound.

In fact, with the life of the virus in the body limited to a week, maybe two, it’s probably fine to TTC a month after coming back. But that only even becomes a concern if mama gets bitten and catches the virus.

We checked in with the resorts to see what they’re doing – and they’re being very proactive to afford their guests comfort and peace of mind. RIU Resorts Told us their measures “include controlling the mosquito population that is spreading the disease through their bite. These measures include: cleaning and eliminating objects and areas that may accumulate water, spraying, treating sanitary water with chlorine and biological control methods for natural springs, as well as including physical barriers.” Furthermore, they’re monitoring guests and employees and plans to do follow up in any confirmed cases.

Photo by: Rob
Photo by: Rob

We also spoke to Sandals Resorts International, who confirmed much of the same, noting it “will handle any individual concerns on a case-by-case basis, with guests’ peace of mind of paramount importance.  All Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts continue to meet and exceed on-resort environmental standards – from increasing eradication methods to the removal of potential mosquito breeding grounds – maintaining the highest possible protocols in the world led by a team of professionally trained environmental health and safety officers.” In addition, they focus on “education for team members and local communities, building awareness and recommending preventative measures to extend beyond the resorts.”

So, does Zika cause microcephaly?

At the moment there is no conclusive evidence that Zika virus causes microcephaly and stunts brain development during gestation, however, it seems like it has to be more than just a coincidence that the rate of microcephaly in southern climates has risen with the proliferation of Zika.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) have weighed in on what it would take for conclusive findings.

Scientific American reports:

A top official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters today that to firm up the connections between the two conditions researchers must study the documented microcephaly cases, the case history of pregnant women and conduct case-control studies of babies born in affected areas such as Brazil to get further insights. Only then, following careful analyses, can scientists solidify the Zika–microcephaly links and the required preventative steps.

While that may take a long time to conclude, Scientific American also reports:

The director general of WHO, Margaret Chan, however, said that although that causal relationship has not been proved, it is “strongly suspected.” That is due, in part, to other research that has shown the virus is capable of crossing the placental barrier and showing up in amniotic fluid.

We are not doctors and we are not virologists, just mamas trying to figure out if we should travel, and we’re sharing our insights. You need to make informed decisions and should speak to your doctor for more information. Urban Suburban Mommy is in no way dispensing medical advice, only sharing some of the information we have gathered for ourselves.

There are always ski trips if sun vacations have you concerned.

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