More Zika outbreaks, more travel advisories

A scanner being used to detect people with fever at Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, yesterday. Fever is one of the symptoms of Zika infection. Other symptoms include an itchy rash, body aches and red ey
A scanner being used to detect people with fever at Soekarno Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, yesterday. Fever is one of the symptoms of Zika infection. Other symptoms include an itchy rash, body aches and red eyes.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Increasing outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus have prompted a plethora of travel advisories for visits across Asia, the Caribbean, North, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands.

Countries differ on the risk posed by various destinations. For South-east Asia, the United States has issued a Zika travel warning only for Singapore, but Britain says Thailand is high-risk and the Philippines and Indonesia are a moderate risk. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warns that travel to Thailand and Indonesia is risky, but omits the Philippines.

Travel advisories from governments and health organisations, however, are consistent in urging pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant to avoid non-essential travel to countries with Zika outbreaks.

The advisories also encourage travellers to use mosquito repellent and to wearprotective clothing. Given the risk of sexual transmission of the virus, condoms and a period of abstinence from sex after returning from Zika hot spots are advised.

Malaysia is among the countries monitoring arriving travellers with thermal scanners.

The US Department of Homeland Security told The Straits Times that Customs and Border Protection agents routinely monitor travellers entering the US for illness, but said it was not taking any special measures to screen those coming from Zika-affected countries.

 

"Based on current understanding of the virus, the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) does not recommend enhanced public health screening to detect Zika-infected travellers entering the country," the department said.

 
 

"Such measures would not be effective because most people who are infected with Zika are asymptomatic and therefore cannot be identified during the screening process."

It added, however, that as part of its standard operations, an overtly ill traveller entering the US might be referred for further medical evaluation. The department said the CDC and Customs and Border Protection will continually assess the need for additional actions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'More outbreaks, more travel advisories'. Print Edition | Subscribe