The Zika virus seemed to come out of nowhere late last year. It made big headlines for a few weeks before fading to the background again. Did the virus disappear or is it just not a problem? For business travelers, it could still be a concern, so it's important to know about the risks, signs and symptoms of Zika.
What is Zika?
Although Zika has only recently made headlines, the disease was actually discovered in 1947. According to the World Health Organization, a team of scientists discovered the virus in a Rhesus monkey while they were conducting research in Uganda. The first human case of Zika was reported in 1952.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Zika is primarily spread by the Aedes species of mosquito. Typically, the virus is hard to differentiate from other common ailments. It's symptoms include joint pain, rashes, fever and red eyes. The virus is almost never fatal, and the symptoms typically disappear quickly. In fact, many people who have contracted Zika are probably unaware that they ever even had the disease.
However, Zika could cause complications during pregnancy, leading to a condition called microcephaly, which affects the size of a newborn's head. The condition is dangerous and could cause seizures and intellectual disabilities.
Which countries have Zika?
Currently, the countries with the most reported cases of Zika are in the Caribbean and northern South America, with Brazil in particular having a high proportion of reported cases. With many businesses sending employees to Brazil in anticipation of this year's Olympic Games, concerns have been raised by the travelers - especially pregnant women.
Mexico, which is home to many manufacturers, has also reported several cases of the disease. As more countries with ties to American companies report the disease, those companies are often left scrambling to develop a plan of action. These policies are often kept under wraps, though there's no doubt that conversations are developing around how Zika will affect travel policies.
Zika and business travel
According to Business Travel News, Zika virus hasn't done much to slow down business travel. Women business travelers are on higher alert when it comes to international assignments, but, unless they are pregnant or currently trying to start a family, concern is relatively low. Because most business is conducted in metropolitan areas with fewer mosquitos, the risk of contacting the virus is rather small. Those traveling for factory inspections, which might be in less populated areas, are more at risk and should take precautions, such as using insect repellent.
At the end of the day, business will probably continue to take precedence over concern for the virus. As long as pregnant women keep up-to-date with the latest CDC travel reports, there is relatively little chance of serious consequences. Additionally, the number of reported cases in the U.S. has never risen above more than a few hundred. Following your normal hygiene routine should be enough to prevent yourself from getting sick.