Last updated: 01:23 PM ET, Tue February 02 2016

5 Ways to Avoid the Zika Virus in the Caribbean

Features & Advice | Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | February 02, 2016

5 Ways to Avoid the Zika Virus in the Caribbean

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Mosquitos have been notorious in centuries past as transmitters of such nasty tropical diseases as malaria and yellow fever — well, the Zika virus can now be added to that list, hitting the Caribbean and Latin America with its own twisted effects.

According to the Center For Disease Control, many victims experience no reactions to the mosquito-borne virus, but common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and reddened eyes. The concern surrounding the virus is enough that the World Health Organization has issued a global alert regarding the microcephaly that results from exposure by pregnant women to the virus. The major concerns are connected to cases in Brazil, which have resulted in limb paralysis and birth defects in babies. As the winter chill prompts high-season Caribbean trips, some important knowledge and tips regarding the Zika virus in the region are in order, especially vital for expectant mothers.

1. Know Which Islands Have Experienced Outbreaks.

At the start of February, nine locales in the Caribbean have been affected:  Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The CDC has issued a Level Two Travel Alert for these places, which advises enhanced precautions. That means to avoid mosquito bites whenever possible.

READ MORE: United and American Offering Refunds to Pregnant Passengers Due to Zika Virus

2. Skip The Usual Tropical Attire and Pack Mosquito Repelling Clothes

Besides wearing dark colors, long sleeves and pants to protect against mosquito bites, you can also purchase clothing with insect repellant woven into the garment, on sites like Ex Officio and REI. Although wearing these protective pieces doesn’t sound like as much fun as lounging around in cutoffs, if you’re traveling to Zika-affected countries, you’ll be safe from mosquitos and sunburn

3.  Avoid Wearing Any Scents.

Anything that has a strong scent, including scented lotion, aftershave body wash and perfume, can attract mosquitos. Skip anything that contains a scent and make sure the only smell that lingers on you is insect repellant.

4. Don’t Skimp on Insect Repellant.

Too many travelers depend on generic sprays and products that blend sunscreen and insect repellant together. The CDC lists these ingredients for effective insect repellant: DEET, picaridin, Oil of lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. If your product doesn’t contain any of these, you won’t be totally protected.  And don’t rely on buying repellent when you arrive (you might not find brands with the active ingredients you need) because of the airline liquid restrictions. You can purchase insect repellent towelettes that contain CDC approved ingredients without the liquid.

READ MORE: Survey: More than Half of Respondents Would Not Travel to Zika-Affected Regions

5. Contact Your Hotel to Ensure That They Have Screens on Windows, Air Conditioning and Mosquito Nets.

None of these features are a given in the Caribbean but they are important when it comes to keeping mosquitoes away. Some hotel rooms only have fans but that won’t drive away mosquitoes like cold blasts of air conditioning.

Mosquito nets should be long enough to cover the entire bed and tucked under the mattress. If the hotel doesn’t have a bed net, consider buying your own net treated with insecticide to travel with you. Most accommodations spray the grounds, but keep a small bottle of insect repellent with you to spray your room every night.  Follow these precautions and enjoy a Caribbean vacation without worrying about mosquito bites.

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