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International Travel Advisory on Zika Virus

To:  All Students, Faculty & Staff
From:  Justin Kraynack, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer
Wilkes University is closely monitoring the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organizations (WHO) regarding the Zika virus.  On February 1, 2016 the CDC posted an “Alert Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions,” for areas in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
The Zika virus is generally transmitted through mosquito bites.  The CDC and WHO emphasized mosquito-control efforts and avoiding mosquito bites to prevent Zika virus disease, similar to the approach used with dengue and yellow fever, which is transmitted by the same mosquito species.
The CDC has an ever-expanding advisory urging U.S. women who are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant, to avoid traveling to countries that have local transmission of the Zika virus.  Zika not only has a potential link to Microcephaly in newborns, but can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome in anyone contracting the disease, which can cause paralysis. Currently, it is estimated that only 20% of those contracting Zika have any symptoms, and if they do, they are usually mild.
The WHO identifies key facts about the Zika virus as:
  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
Faculty, staff and students who have plans for travel to Zika affected countries during the spring semester, spring break, or summer should refer to the CDC website for the most recent information on Zika. Travelers who are U.S. citizens should also enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) travel enrollment data base and request health, safety, and security updates from the U.S. Department of State.
While no one is obligated to travel to an affected area on University business, those who do are strongly advised to adhere strictly to the CDC’s recommended preventions.
If you would like to discuss your international travel plans relating to this advisory, please feel free to contact me at 570-408-4554 or Justin.kraynack@wilkes.edu 
Additional information on Zika virus:
World Health Organization:  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/CDC:  http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.htmlUS Department of State: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/Zika.html