Travelers beware: plan ahead to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses | CraigDailyPress.com

Travelers beware: plan ahead to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses

— Travelers preparing for a trip to warmer climates should add a visit to a physician as part of their departure checklist.

"People travel all over the world and within each country there are different health advisories for each city and even each elevation," said Mindy Hayden, a public health registered nurse at Northwest Colorado Health.

Of particular concern are diseases spread by mosquitos.

According to the American Mosquito Control Association, "Mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other organism as over one million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year, and they also transmit several diseases and parasites to dogs and horses."

These include: malaria, chikungunya, dog heartworm, dengue, yellow fever, eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, West Nile virus and Zika virus.

The Zika virus is the latest virus carried by mosquitos identified as a threat to travelers. Zika is a viral infection spread by Aedes mosquitos and through sexual intercourse.

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"Symptoms include fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes. Some people can carry Zika with no symptoms," Hayden said.

Zika is especially dangerous for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

"Zika can be passed from a pregnant mother to her fetus and can cause certain birth defects including microcephaly, brain, hearing, vision and growth defects," Hayden said.

The climates and condition of some areas are more likely than others to host disease carrying mosquitos.

Areas with higher risk of mosquito-transmitted viruses include Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America and some parts of the U.S., including areas in Florida, Texas and Hawaii, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest advice on travel precautions is available through area medical clinics.

"We advise people to give us a call at 970-871-7336 and we will navigate them through specific precautions," Hayden said.

Vaccines for some blood-borne diseases such as yellow fever are only available at the Northwest Colorado Health travel clinic in Steamboat Springs and it's important to plan ahead.

"International travelers should receive a travel consultation a minimum of one month prior to departure, sooner if possible. Some vaccines require more than one dose and can take up to 38 days to be considered immune," Hayden said.

It's also wise to take precautions against mosquitos while at home.

"Colorado does have known West Nile Virus transmitted by mosquitos. As the warmer months approach, it is important to do your part to prevent the spread of mosquitos and follow insect precautions," Hayden said.

Learn more about how to help prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses by visiting the CDC’s webpage on Zika and mosquitos.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

Tips to avoid mosquito bites

Take these steps to protect against mosquito bites:

• Cover exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

• Use insect repellents registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency containing active ingredients approved for safety and effectiveness such as DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. For more information, go to epa.gov/insect-repellents.

• Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents. Most repellents can be used on children two months and older. Adults should spray insect repellent onto hands and then apply to a child’s face.

• Always follow directions on insect repellent labels.

• Wear permethrin-treated clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and tents.

• Stay and sleep in screened-in and air-conditioned rooms whenever possible. Sleep under a mosquito net if rooms do not have air conditioning or screens or when sleeping outdoors.

• Use mosquito netting to cover babies two months and younger in carriers, strollers or cribs.

• Pregnant women may need to take special precautions and/or avoid travel to some areas with active Zika virus. For more information, go to cdc.gov/zika.

• Some mosquitoes are active during the day and at night, so take precautions 24 hours a day.

For more tips and information visit cdc.gov/features/stopmosquitoes.

Source: Northwest Colorado Health