First of all, one needs to understand the vector, the transmitter, the mosquito Aedes Aegypti:
It does not fly far, maximum the distance of an urban block, and it requires still, clean water to procreate.
This water is found in flower pot bases, water tanks, used tires, in pieces of trash where rainwater can accumulate and other vessels containing standing water. Most South Americans now understand how and what to do to avoid the formation of these breeding areas. However, trash can still be found, especially in impoverished areas. Therefore:
- Stay in higher income areas, where the population is better informed and educated about what to do.
- Avoid areas with improper sanitation and unofficial waste deposits, like slums.
- Stay in good hotels with air-conditioning. Keep windows closed.
- Use repellent.
- Travel to destinations in South America where the mosquito is unlikely to survive: The highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, the dryness of the deserts, such as the Atacama and Peruvian Coastal Deserts or the dry conditions of the Galapagos. Travel to the temperate climates of Southern Chile, Southern Argentina.
- Choose areas of low population density like the Amazon Rainforest or the Pantanal and many others. Remember, while the Aedes Aegypti might exist there, there are few other people from which it could pick up the virus and transmit it to you.
- Travel during times of less rain. While in South America there are no monsoons like in Asia, there are times when it rains more. Try to avoid traveling from mid December to mid March, however best travel times depend on the specific region. Please ask your travel consultant.
Don’t be scared by the media: The CDC still speaks of “outbreak”, not “pandemic” or even worse: “epidemic”.
80% of the infected show no symptoms. Most of the remaining 20% show symptoms less severe then a flu. Only pregnant women, especially during the first trimester, are advised by the CDC to be cautious when traveling to a Zika fever outbreak area.
At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves how much traveling means to us, how much does it add to our quality of life, our lifestyle. The biggest risks for Americans traveling remain: Renting a car in a country where one drives on the left hand. Second comes terrorism, then diseases, as the NYT writes: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/travel/zika-virus-terrorism-travel-safety .
So, we know, when going to England, we prefer to take public transportation. To avoid terrorism, we still see Paris or London, but spend more time in smaller towns. And to minimize the risk of diseases, we take precautions.
As the German Weekly Die Zeit put it: This Mosquito –sadly- is a plague of impoverished areas: http://www.zeit.de/2016/07/zika-virus-moskitos-uebertragung-armut .
So go where you always went in South America and, first of all, avoid slums – places you likely never intended to go to in the first place – as the mosquito does not fly far! Then, talk to our travel consultants, they shall help you to minimize all risks, not only those posed by certain mosquitos.