In response to the recent WHO statement about Zika, we have informed ourselves about the situation in all countries where we operate. Notably, Zika is a benign virus that usually generates few complications. Only 20% of infected people will contract Zika fever. The other 80% that carry the virus will feel nothing. The complaints are fever and headache. For pregnant women, there is a risk that the virus will create malformations in children. We suggest that pregnant women travelling with us take special precautions. There are presently no recommendations against travel to any country in South America.
It is important to note that in areas higher than 2,500 meters (8,200 ft) above sea level, the Zika mosquito cannot survive. Therefore, visitors to Quito, Cuenca, Cuzco, Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, Puno, La Paz, and Uyuni (among other cities) are not at risk of being bitten by a Zika mosquito. The mosquito can grow only in wet zones close to the tropics; therefore, Chile and Argentina will not be affected.
In Ecuador, only 5 people are reported to have contracted Zika fever (in other affected countries). The government has intensified control measures by spraying potential mosquito breeding grounds. In the Galapagos Islands, is it unlikely that the mosquito can survive due to the islands’ environment; however, as precaution, a disinfection process is implemented in airplanes and ships entering the area from the mainland.
In Bolivia, only five people have been confirmed to have Zika fever; three of them came from Brazil, and two are locals. The Bolivian government has launched a national strategic plan for the prevention and control of Zika.
In Peru, only one case of Zika fever has been registered to date. The Ministries of Health (MOH) and Foreign Trade and Tourism (MINCETUR) have strengthened measures to prevent and control Zika fever. The government regularly fumigates hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities in Northern Peru and the Peruvian Amazon Region where the virus might arise.
Brazil has taken extraordinary measures to prevent infection. The government works with the population to increase prevention. The chief physician for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, John Grangeiro, has indicated that the presence of the mosquito declines from mid-April to insignificance in June, when the dry season begins. As a preventive measure it is recommended that pregnant women or those who plan to become pregnant are advised to take extreme caution or postpone their trip to Brazil.
When traveling in tropical zones in South America and elsewhere in the world, take these precautions:
- Use insect repellent whether you are inside or outside;
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants;
- Wear closed shoes (no sandals and flip-flops);
- In hotels, use air conditioning (if available) and don’t open the window at night;
- Sleep under a mosquito net.