Costa Rica is well known for its magnificent nature, epic waterfalls, exotic animals, paradise beaches, and much more! However, the word “Zika” buzzed all over various media outlets and the internet for months creating worry for travelers who wished to head to this remarkable country for a much needed vacation or extended stay. Coverage and panic over the virus seemed to spread like wildfire throughout the United States but all seemed pretty quiet and calm down here in Costa Rica! As a currently 8 month pregnant expat, who has lived here for over a year and half now, I was getting many questions from friends and potential visitors about the prevalence of the virus down here. Educating yourself on the facts of the virus along with ways that you can protect yourself often can help provide the answer if you are wondering if you should stay clear of Costa Rica because of the Zika virus.
Before deciding to postpone your trip, it may help to look at the facts of the Zika virus.
1. This is Not a New Virus!
Zika has been around for at least 70 years that we know of! This particular virus is a mosquito born virus that can be found in the Americas along with dengue, chikungunya, malaria, and yellow fever. It is uniquely different from other mosquito born viruses in that it can be transmitted sexually. If using the correct precautions to protect yourself from the virus as you would with other diseases that can also be transmitted this way, you can significantly reduce your risk and worry.
2. The Symptoms are Extremely Mild
The symptoms of Zika can hardly compare to what goes around doing flu season in the North Americas! Most who contract this virus are not aware of it and do not fall ill. The most common symptom of this virus is, none! If any symptoms are displayed, they include a headache, slight fever, possible rash, and joint pain. These may only last for the duration of a few days to a week.
3. There is No Real Danger to the Average Traveler
This virus poses no real threat or danger to a typical healthy traveler. Due to its zero to extremely mild side effects, travelers do not need to feel urged to change their plans. Individuals have traveled throughout the Americas for countless years while taking precautions to malaria, dengue, and chikungunya, which have also existed in these areas. The biggest danger that Zika poses is to pregnant women or those who wish to become pregnant. In this case, it is always urged to speak with a doctor, view CDC recommendations, and make your own decision on what you feel is best.
(As a side note! I have been living in Costa Rica throughout the entire duration of my pregnancy since August 2016 and I am expecting a healthy baby in May!)
*How to Proactively Protect Yourself
If you’re still nervous about traveling to Costa Rica or another area that has reported cases of Zika, (which is almost all of the Americas now) there are tons of ways that you can be proactive and drastically reduce your risk of getting the virus!
Bring EPA registered insect repellent
Cover exposed skin
Sleep in rooms with screens or windows
Use condoms as contraceptive protection
Hang a mosquito net over sleeping area if no screens available or if sleeping outside
Visit Costa Rica during dry seasons
Pacific: Early January – late April
Caribbean: Late September – early November
Talk of the virus has seemed to have left the media in the more recent months and more travelers are taking the time to look at the facts and still enjoy short or lengthy vacations to these areas. Don’t allow media hype to cause you to miss out on a vacation, yoga retreat, or grand adventure to Costa Rica! A part of being a smart traveler is doing your own research and taking all necessary precautions you see fit. Look at the facts and bring your repellent! Costa Rica is NOT a country you want to miss out on visiting!
By Sarah Blanks