DOH Cautions Travelers Headed to 2016 Summer Olympics
With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games set to begin at the end of this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the state Department of Health is cautioning all travelers, especially Hawaiʻi residents, to take preventive measures against being bitten by mosquitoes while there, because of the ongoing Zika outbreak in that country.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also recommending that women who are pregnant not attend the Olympics because of the risk Zika poses to a developing fetus and its link to cases of microcephaly.
While there have been no cases among persons who have been infected by mosquitoes in Hawaiʻi, the state has been identified as a high risk area for experiencing local Zika spread because of our year-round warm temperatures and consistently high travel rates, both into and out of the state.
Florida is also identified as a high-risk state for local Zika transmission, and recently confirmed its first cases of locally-acquired Zika. These cases are the first instances of locally transmitted Zika in the United States.
“We wish Hawaiʻi residents going to Brazil for the Olympic Games safe travels, and urge them to heed travel warnings by preparing carefully and doing what they can to prevent mosquito bites,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “If people avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, they will substantially reduce their risks of contracting Zika virus and bringing it back to Hawaiʻi. We don’t have locally transmitted Zika here, and we must do whatever we can to keep it that way.”
Travelers returning to Hawaiʻi from areas affected by Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses are advised that if they become ill within two weeks of returning home, they should consult and be assessed by their healthcare provider.
Local mosquitoes can become infected when they bite an infected human. Active local transmission begins when infected local mosquitoes infect the humans they bite. Zika can also be spread from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child before or during birth and from an infected person to their sexual partners.
To protect against contracting Zika, especially during travel to Brazil for the Olympics, or other locations with local mosquito-borne transmission, DOH recommends the following precautions:
- Apply EPA-registered insect repellent containing 20-30 percent DEET, especially if outdoors.
- Wear protective clothing, such as light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes.
- Avoid activities outdoors at sunrise and sunset when mosquitoes are most active.
- Avoid areas with mosquitoes, such as shady, damp locations or standing water.