There has been a recent outbreak in the Caribbean and South America of a mosquito-borne illness called “Zika Virus”. The signs and symptoms are very similar to that of Dengue and Chikungunya, both having already been prevalent in the area. Most who contract the virus suffer from symptoms of rash, fever, and muscle/joint pain, but many do not become symptomatic at all.

The only serious threat of the virus is to pregnant women. Studies have shown a birth defect, known as microcephaly, in children born to women who contracted the virus during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

There have been no other findings of the disease to be serious or fatal.

The best defense against the virus is the avoidance of mosquito bites. During the fall/winter, there is less mosquito prevalence in the areas we work, but it is always valuable to exercise caution and take measures to protect against bites. The use of mosquito repellant (100% DEET…not the natural stuff…100% DEET) will repel most or all mosquitos that carry the virus. Just make sure to use the spray throughout the day with special attention to the mornings and evenings. In addition, bring a mosquito net for sleeping – just in case (although the mosquitos that carry Zika are primarily day-biters).  Help One Now will take every precaution in choosing where we have teams sleep each night to keep our people as safe as possible.

Also, during this time when the outbreak is at its height, Help One Now will not allow any expectant mothers on any of our trips. The danger that Zika poses for pregnant women and their babies (microcephaly) is in transmission during the first 2 trimesters while the brain and cranium develop. It is simply not worth the risk to travel to outbreak areas. If you know you are pregnant, please let us know and we will refund any money that has already been paid. If you suspect you could be pregnant, please find out for sure before coming on a trip. Also, if Zika is contracted my a man, it is recommended that he abstain from sex for 6 weeks.  If a man has a partner who is pregnant, it is recommended to abstain from sex for 6 weeks after being in an area where Zika is prevalent, whether you feel like you have contracted the virus or not.

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