Zika safety precautions advised for spring break travelers

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COLUMBIA - As students and families are preparing to go on spring break trips, the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are advising caution for those who are going to areas affected by Zika.

Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services tweeted on Thursday, telling travelers to be careful if they're going to certain countries.

According to the CDC, some of those areas include Texas, Florida, Mexico and several other Central and South American countries that spring break travelers often go to. 

As of March 22, there were 5,158 Zika virus disease cases reported in the United States. 4,861 of those cases were in travelers returning from affected areas.

Eric Stann, the community relations specialist for Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, said travelers going to these regions should try to wear long sleeves and long pants, and apply insect repellent. 

Stann said if travelers aren't planning on wearing long sleeves, they should be careful to re-apply their insect repellent. 

"Make sure they’ve applied it and maybe after a couple hours re-apply it again just to prevent the mosquitoes from possibly biting them,” Stann said. "Specifically, an EPA-approved insect repellent often times has DEET as one of the chemicals in the insect repellent."

According to the CDC, Zika is spread through insect bites and sexual intercourse.

"Right now, CDC is recommending that pregnant women do not travel to areas that are in the world that have Zika," Stann said.

If someone comes back from vacation and thinks they may have symptoms of the Zika virus, Stann said, they should see their doctor.

“If they come back from spring break and they think they may have symptoms or they experience symptoms, they should seek out their healthcare provider,” Stann said. 

More information about the Zika virus and prevention is available on the CDC's website.