Traveling south? Take some extra precautions this year

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's hard to feel sorry for someone who lives in Hawaii, but we understand their anxiety over mosquito-borne illnesses.

Besides, some of us might like to visit the 50th state in the near future.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has declared a state of emergency over a dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island, where there have been 250 confirmed cases, as well as the approaching Zika virus.

There have been no confirmed Zika cases, but the same mosquitoes carry both viruses.

Hawaii slashed its mosquito control and entomology staff during the economic downturn in 2009, but officials are hoping the emergency declaration will help them acquire more money to control outbreaks.

You don't have to go as far as Hawaii to encounter such mosquitoes, however, and the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department is encouraging everyone to who plans to travel outside the United States to review recommended shots and preventative actions recommended by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention.

It's inviting to visit warm locations during the winter, whether for a cruise, spring break or mission trips with church groups.

"With the recent confirmation of two Nebraska residents obtaining the Zika virus through their travels, we want people to know precautions that keep them safe," said Myra Stoney, SWNPHD director.

The agency offers several shots that can help travelers stay safe from diseases like Zika, dengue, Chikungunya and malaria, that are not common in the United States, added Melissa Propp, RN, SWNPHD surveillance nurse.

If you're lucky enough to be leaving the cold behind for a short trip, the CDC offers some advice:

Choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors.

Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room that is not well screened.

Buy a bed net at your local outdoor store or online before traveling overseas.

Permethrin-treated bed nets provide more protection than untreated nets.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing. Treat clothes with permethrin or another EPA registered insecticide for extra protection.

Bring EPA registered insect repellent with you.

Reapply insect repellent every few hours and do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.

SWNPHD encourages any resident that begins to experience signs or symptoms upon return to the United States to contact their healthcare provider and give specific information about their recent travels.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Healthcare providers will contact SWNPHD to approve testing for the Zika virus.

Only about one in five people infected with the mosquito-borne virus will get sick and their illness is usually mild.

Of highest concern are pregnant women who may contract the virus which possibly leads to birth defects.

For more information, contact the SWNPHD at (308) 345-4223, nurse@swhealth.ne.gov, on Facebook or Twitter, or contact your regular healthcare provider.

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