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DOH Cautions Summer Olympic Travelers

August 2, 2016, 10:00 AM HST
* Updated August 2, 10:02 AM
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Big Island Now stock photo.

Big Island Now stock photo.

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games set to begin this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Hawai‘i State Department of Health cautions all travelers—especially Hawai‘i residents—to take preventive measures against being bitten by mosquitoes due to the country’s ongoing Zika outbreak.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted a Level 2 Travel Alert, advising travelers to the Olympic Games to practice enhanced precautions while in Brazil.

The CDC also recommends that women who are pregnant not attend the Olympics because of the risk Zika poses to a developing fetus. Zika has been linked to cases of microcephaly, a serious birth defect that causes a baby to be born with a smaller than normal sized head because of abnormal brain development, which can result in medical problems and impaired development.

“We wish Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i. We don’t have locally transmitted Zika here, and we must do whatever we can to keep it that way.”

Travelers returning to Hawai‘i 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.

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While there have been no cases among persons who have been infected by mosquitoes in Hawai‘i, the state has been identified as a high risk area for experiencing local Zika spread because of its year-round warm temperatures and consistently high travel rates, both into and out of the state.

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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.

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.
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For travel notices and information related to Zika, visit the CDC’s Zika Travel Information page.

For more information about Zika virus, visit DOH’s Disease Outbreak and Control Division’s website.

Additional resources about DOH’s efforts to raise awareness about mosquito-borne disease prevention in Hawai‘i is available online.

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