John Hannan: Bridges Continues Policy of Staying Ahead of the Curve on Safety

August 29 Update: The CDC continues to update its recommendations about the Zika virus. One thousand cases have been reported in Nicaragua, of those 445 are pregnant women. 52 infected women have given birth to healthy babies, 2 have had stillbirths, and there is 1 report of microcephaly linked to Zika. In the Dominican Republic, there have been 4,000 casesreported, with 600 pregnant women. 3 cases of microcephaly have been reported to date. 

May 12 Update: The CDC begins reporting cases of Zika in the United States. To date, there have been no cases of microcephaly reported as a result of Zika in the US, Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. 

March 11 Update: The CDC recommends that travelers to Central America, the Caribbean, and other parts of Latin America “practice enhanced precautions,” which it lists. Read More

February 3 Update: New York State Department of Health puts out health info

Bridges to Community is committed to the safety of our volunteers, and we take every possible precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of our volunteers during their time with us in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  For this reason we have been following closely the news and medical information coming out about the Zika virus.

The Zika virus has been known to occur since the 1950s but, until recently, was confined to a relatively small Equatorial belt from Africa to Asia.  Zika is a virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, and since 2015 has been spreading through the Americas, with cases reported in South and Central America and the Caribbean. As of August 29, about 1,000 cases of Zika have been reported in Nicaragua, mostly concentrated in the capital city, and around 4,000 cases have been reported in the Dominican Republic, concentrated mostly in the Northeast. In Nicaragua, 52 pregnant women have given birth to healthy babies, and there is 1 report of microcephaly related to Zika. In the Dominican Republic, 3 microcephaly cases have been reported. Both countries are engaging in heavy prevention measures, including frequent neighborhood fumigation in the areas most affected, and creating public awareness. There are 2,500 cases of Zika reported in the continental US.

The World Health Organization reports that the incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of the Zika virus disease is not clear, but is likely to be a few days. The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.  No vaccine currently exists and treatment normally consists of getting rest and taking plenty of fluids.

What has caused alarm about the recent outbreak of the Zika is that as it spread through Brazil, increased cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with microcephaly and poor pregnancy outcomes were also being reported.  The World Health Organization and other agencies are investigating all the evidence available but, to date, they conclude, more research is needed before they fully understand the relationship between microcephaly in babies and the Zika virus.  Until more is known about the virus and out of an abundance of caution the Center for Disease Control has issued travel precautions for pregnant women, or women trying to get pregnant, who are considering traveling to areas where the virus is likely to be present.

Bridges to Community is continuing our policy of staying ahead of the curve on all the precautions and preventative measures we can take for this or any other insect borne issues, including: 

1) Staff in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic spray all dormitories and common areas volunteers stay in or use to ensure minimum potential contact with mosquitos when volunteers are relaxing or sleeping.

2) We provide everyone with Permethrin-treated  mosquito nets for sleeping and constantly buy new ones to replace any that are damaged.

3) We provide mosquito repellent for those who did not read our literature advising them to bring their own and make sure people apply insect repellent to themselves regularly.

Because the Aedes Mosquito is primarily a day time biting mosquitos, most active in the early morning or late afternoon, we strongly advise everyone to wear light colored, light weight long sleeved shirts and long pants camp clothing.  We advise buying the kind that comes with insect repellent already permeating the clothing.  REI, Cabellos, Campmor and other major camping cloths stores all sell light weight insect repellent clothing in their stores and on the web.

Like West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease here in the US, it is impossible to guarantee that no one will ever get bitten by an insect but we have been very successful in ensuring everyone stays healthy with our preventative measures and hope this helps give our volunteers and their families confidence and a sense of security.

Please use this webpage and the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization’s websites to stay updated.  We will continue to update this page as more information is available, so please feel free to bookmark and come back to it often.
CDC: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information

WHO: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/