The University will not cancel or postpone any international travel programs due to the Zika virus epidemic, according to University Media Relations Specialist Min Pullan.
The Zika virus causes fever, rash, joint pain, red eye, muscle pain and headache, according to theCDC. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week, and infected individuals usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital.
Although Zika is rarely fatal, it may result in fetal defects. The virus is typically transmitted through mosquito bites and sexual intercourse, according to the CDC.
Currently, the Zika virus has been spreading rapidly in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, according to Assistant Commissioner for Epidemiology at the New Jersey Department of Health Christina Tan ’92.
The University Office of International Programs currently offers summer and semesterprograms in various Latin American countries including Brazil, Guatemala and Ecuador, including a site for the Bridge Year Program at Salvador, Brazil. In addition, EEB338: Tropical Biology, a three-week field course given at four sites in Panama, is offered this semester to juniors.
Director of the Office of International Programs Nancy Kanach deferred comment to Pullan.
Director of Study Abroad Mell Bolen and International Internship Program director Luisa Duarte-Silva did not respond to requests for comment.
Pullan noted the University will issue advisories to students traveling to regions of high risk.
“We are working with partners across campus to ensure that students who are planning to travel to, or who are traveling in an affected country receive all of the information available to prevent infection,” Pullan said.
According to Pullan, students who are currently abroad and who have recently returned have received a message alerting them about the virus concern from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pullan also noted that University Health Services has disseminated relevant information during student travel medicine appointments, correspondences with groups planning to travel and on the UHS website. These recommendations include wearing insect repellents and avoiding contact with insects.
The University recommendations are in line with those of the CDC, Pullan added.
UHS Director John Kolligian deferred comment to Pullan.
Research Health Policy Scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security Laura Kahn GS ’02 said that traveling to the tropics increases the risk of exposure to Zika, and advised students to wear long sleeve shirts.
“If you plan to go backpacking in the jungle, that would be a bigger risk than staying in the city,” she said.
As there is currently no commercially available vaccine or cure for the virus, prevention is the most effective measure in combating the epidemic, Tan noted.
Pullan noted that the University also encourages students who have returned from an area affected by the Zika outbreak to contact UHS. Students who wish to pursue an evaluation at UHS for Zika symptoms should give prior notice before arriving at McCosh Health Center, Pullan explained.
In line with CDC recommendations, the University encourages students who have recently returned from an affected area to consider abstinence from sexual activity or to use condoms effectively, she added.
Tan said that the New Jersey Department of Health is launching a public awareness campaign about the threats of the Zika virus to monitor for signs of an epidemic in the United States. According to Tan, the NJDOH has also joined forces with the Department of Environmental Protection to keep track of the mosquito population in the state.
"All the cases in the US are travel-associated to date,” Tan said.
According to the CDC, there is currently one reported case of Zika infection in New Jersey. The case is travel related.