Zika Update – Current Research Findings and CDC Travels Recommendations

While the World Health Organization has declared that Zika is no longer a global health emergency, the threat is still very real for vulnerable pregnant women in Nicaragua whose children risk being born with microcephaly and other neurological problems should these mothers be infected with Zika during pregnancy. Please see below for travel recommendations for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and their male partners, to know how to reduce this risk. And please continue to pray for women and babies in Nicaragua who continue to live where Zika is endemic.

See our the publications from AMOS and the CDC below for more details.

A Brief Zika Review and Update

The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, chikungunya and West Nile virus. The majority of people infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms. For 1 out of 5 people infected, the virus causes mild to moderate flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, red eyes, joint and muscle aches, and a mild rash. The incubation period is thought to be between 3 to 12 days. The symptoms generally last 3 to 7 days, with no proven long-term effects.

However, since February 1st, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency due to growing concern that it could be linked to the birth defect, called microcephaly.

Scientists are currently performing ongoing research on Zika around the globe, and while there are still many unknown factors, the research will continue to clarify issues as time goes on. Today, we would like to present an update on the latest research on Zika and the recommendations from the Zika website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This website also has great ongoing updates, information and flyers about Zika that are extremely helpful for anyone interested in learning more about Zika.

Have the recommendations on travel to Nicaragua changed?

The recommendations on travel to Nicaragua has not changed since the Zika outbreak was first reported — so there continue to be no travel restrictions for Nicaragua. The travel notice is to “practice enhanced precautions”, which means to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites since Zika is primarily spread by mosquitos.

Please see the link below which is the travel notice from the CDC about the Zika virus in Nicaragua. This travel notice is frequently updated, and will give you the most up to date information you need to know about the Zika Virus in Nicaragua.

Travel Notice for Nicaragua from the CDC

How do I prevent getting mosquito bites in Nicaragua?

All visitors to Nicaragua should follow the CDC guidelines for protecting themselves against mosquito bites and therefore exposure to the Zika virus. Not all mosquitoes carry Zika and, in fact, the rates of Zika in Nicaragua are still low compared to surrounding countries.

However, the following precautions or highly recommended for all visitors to AMOS in order to protect yourselves from the virus until a vaccine is available:
  • Sleep in a room with screens or under bed nets if you are staying in a place without screens ( NOTE: When you stay at AMOS, the guesthouses and offices all have screens, and when you are in the rural communities we provide a bednet for you.)
  • Use bug spray every day when not inside a screened building
  • If possible, we recommend spraying clothes with permethrin (mosquito repellent) prior to arrival in Nicaragua. Here is an example of a product, (there are several) that can be used to spray your clothes.
Preventing Mosquito Bites While Traveling

Below is a summary of the latest updated recommendations and information from the CDC:

On Microcephaly, Pregnancy and Zika:

According to the CDC, we know that:
  • Zika can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
  • Infection during pregnancies is linked to birth defects like microcephaly (abnormally small heads) in babies.
What we do NOT know is that if you are pregnant and become infected:
  • How likely it is that Zika will pass to your fetus.
  • Whether your baby will have birth defects.
For Pregnant women: At this time, the CDC recommends that pregnant women do not travel to Nicaragua, and if they absolutely do have to travel that they talk to their physician.

If you are pregnant and have a male partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, the CDC recommends to either use condoms or do not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during your pregnancy.

Information for pregnant women who need to travel from the CDC.

What if I am planning to become pregnant soon and traveling to Nicaragua?

  • Before travel, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of getting Zika
  • During travel, strictly follow the steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  • If you become symptomatic with Zika, wait at least 8 weeks before trying to become pregnant

Sex and Zika: I know I can get Zika from mosquitoes, but can I get Zika from having sex?

Yes. New research confirms that the Zika virus can be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners through semen. This is unusual since most mosquito borne viruses are not sexually transmitted. Therefore, the CDC currently recommends the following:

  • All men with symptoms of Zika should wear a condom 100% of the time or not have sex for six months
  • All men who have traveled to an area with Zika but did NOT develop symptoms of Zika should wear a condom 100% of the time or not have sex for 8 weeks

More Information about Zika

What about Guillán-Barre and Zika?

Guillain-Barre is a rare disease that affects the nerves and causes weakness in the arms and legs that can lead to paralysis in rare, severe cases. The latest research on Guillain-Barre shows that the incidence of Guillain-Barre related to Zika is the same as the incidence related to common diseases such as Campylobacter jejuni intestinal infection (common cause of diarrhea) in the US), Epstein-Barr virus (cause of mono), and other flu-like illnesses. Guillain-Barre affects the nerves and causes weakness in the arms and legs that can lead to paralysis in rare, severe cases. According to the latest research, the chances of developing Guillain-Barre after Zika virus infection are 2.4 people out of 10,000 people with Zika infection. Therefore, the risk is very low and should not deter volunteers from traveling to Nicaragua.

So this is our latest update from information we have gotten from the CDC. Remember to check the CDC Zika updates frequently — they are the most reliable source of information regarding the Zika virus!

We continue to work in both the rural and urban communities we serve to educate families and women about the zika virus, how to prevent the spread of the virus, how to work on mosquito control, and family planning to prevent pregnancies during the zika outbreak. We give special thanks to all the mission teams and our AMOS staff, health promoters, and health committee members who have been making educational materials and educating families in Nicaragua.

We also want to give a special thanks to Nicaragua Medical Missions for their “mosquito prevention” donation of screens for our office, clinic, and guesthouse.

Prayer Requests:

  • For people in our communities to be able to prevent zika infection, especially pregnant women whose developing babies are the most vulnerable.
  • For the necessary educational materials to support our efforts at AMOS to educate community members on how to eradicate mosquitoes and protect themselves from Zika virus infection.
  • For necessary educational materials to support our efforts to educate our community health workers and community members about family planning and the importance of delaying pregnancy until the Zika vaccine is available.
  • For our efforts to provide family planning supplies to women wanting to protect themselves from pregnancy during the zika outbreak.