World Health Alerts
Dengue Fever (Brazil)
Mosquitos carrying infection are much more active after the rainy season as water becomes stagnant. Following the rainy season, which is usually from March-May, mosquitoes use stagnant water puddles as breeding grounds to reproduce, setting the stage for what environmentalists say will be a very busy summer for mosquito activity.
There were over seven million infections recorded in the last 13 years. Scientists are also concerned that visitors to Brazil run the risk of transmitting the virus back to their home country.
Mosquitos typically bite during early mornings or late afternoons. The traveler is encouraged to reduce the need to be outside during these periods and wear insect repellent while outside. Because there is no vaccine against dengue fever, prevention is the most important step in avoiding infection. The best way to reduce exposure to mosquitos is by avoiding areas where they lay their eggs such as artificial containers, flower planters, vases and other reservoirs that hold water around the house.
For further protection while at home or in a hotel, travelers are advised to sleep underneath a mosquito bed net. Travelers are also encouraged to avoid lakes, ponds and puddles of water. Travelers visiting Brazil are advised to minimize the use of house lights as they commonly attract mosquitos. When possible, and if weather permits, travelers are encouraged to wear long sleeves for additional protection.
Chikungunya (Dominican Republic)
The virus is transmitted by the same mosquitoes that transmit the dengue virus. Although it is reported to cause painful inflammation of the joints, headaches and high fevers, it is not in most cases, deadly. There is no vaccine or cure for the virus; however, high fevers caused by the virus are typically treated with over the counter medications such as acetaminophen. Nearly 55,000 known or suspected cases have been reported in the Caribbean by the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization estimates that 35 percent of the population of Haiti will be infected.
Travelers in the region should take standard measures to avoid mosquito bites. Such measures include: covering exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats, using insect repellant, staying or sleeping in screened or air conditioned rooms, and using a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors. Following the trip, if the traveler finds him or herself feeling ill and experiencing a fever, it is recommended that the traveler consult with a physician, and be sure to inform the doctor of his or her recent travel.
If you have recently traveled in Africa and are experiencing symptoms of fever, muscle aches, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea, please call our office at 305-899-3750 prior to scheduling an appointment.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often-fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees) that has appeared on the western coast of Africa (specifically the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea). This viral infection causes acute symptoms of high fever, muscle pain and weakness, headache, sore throat followed by vomiting and diarrhea, and sometimes internal and external bleeding. Some patients have had kidney failure and about 50% of people infected with the virus have died. Ebola has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact with infected body fluids including saliva, secretions, and blood. Currently there is no vaccine and treatment involves supportive IV fluid hydration, blood transfusion when necessary and possibly experimental medications.
Persons returning from an affected area but have not had direct contact with the body fluids of symptomatic infected persons or animals, or objects that have been contaminated with body fluids, should monitor their health for 10 days. Those with a potential exposure should monitor their health for 21 days post exposure. Regardless, any traveler who becomes ill while traveling, even if only a fever, should consult a health-care provider immediately and tell him or her about their recent travel and potential contacts. Tell the provider about your symptoms prior to going to the office or emergency room so arrangements can be made, if necessary, to prevent transmission to others in the health-care setting.
The likelihood of contracting any viral hemorrhagic fever, including Ebola, is considered extremely low unless there has been direct contact with the body fluids of symptomatic infected persons or animals, or objects that have been contaminated with body fluids. All travelers can take these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of illness:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and rub your hands vigorously.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Illnesses spread this way.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
MERs (Arabian Peninsula area)
MERS is a viral respiratory illness that causes severe acute symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some patients have had kidney failure and about 30% of people infected with MERS have died. MERS has been shown to spread between people who are in close contact and currently there is no vaccine or effective treatment.
Travelers from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula are encouraged to follow standard precautions, such as good hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are ill. If you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries, you should see a provider at the HCC or your healthcare provider and be certain to mention your recent travel.
All travelers can take these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of germs and protect against colds, flu, and other illnesses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Be sure you are up-to-date with all of your shots, and if possible, see your health care provider at least 4-6 weeks before travel to get any additional shots.
If you are sick:
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid contact with other people to keep from infecting them. This might mean delaying your travel until you are well.
For more information on the Student Health & Accident Plan, contact the Student Health Center at 305-899-3750.