This is what so many people have asked me. There is so much in the media about the Zika virus right now that it has started to become everyone’s number one concern for us. Family, friends and even our Airbnb hosts seem worried for our health. In fact, just yesterday I received an email from an old friend reminding us to be careful.
Honestly I have trouble understanding what all the fuss is about. I mean I understand it is a serious disease which has had a very negative impact on the lives of many people, but is this really the number one concern for travellers in South America? If you listen to the media it is! I personally am more focused on a few other dangers like crime, drink spiking and safe taxi’s, but to placate all our loved ones at home and to give some ideas to other travellers, I thought I would share what we are doing to prevent catching Zika (and dengue, malaria and all the other very serious mosquito borne viruses).
- We have come armed with several forms of mosquito repellent. We have 2 cans of 25% DEET spray repellents, 1 roll on repellent and one tube of 80% DEET gel repellent for areas with high infestations of mosquitoes. We should be able to buy repellent at most destinations we are going, but this will cover us for any shortages from media induced panic buying.
- We have clothes with long sleeves and long trousers. I tested this method out while travelling in Australia and it works really well. I picked up a couple of pairs of cotton pyjama bottoms (that look more like hippy style pants rather than nightwear) and a cheap men’s business shirt that I can put over anything I am wearing. And as an added bonus this attractive ensemble also prevents sunburn!
- I have a Sea to Summit citronella clothes wash that we can wash our clothes in so that the mosquitoes think we smell bad and stay away! You can pick this up online or from any serious travel/camping store.
- We even brought mosquito nets with us! We picked up 2 mosquito nets for use on single beds, perfect for backpacking. We also bought a bottle of permethrin and treated the nets ourselves so not only does the net prevent the mosquitoes from getting in but if they make contact it will kill them. And for extra protection I even have a head net that can be worn over a hat if there is ever a swarm of extra passionate mosquitoes.
- We have travel insurance. Should the worst happen and we do contract an illness at least we know we are covered and can get the best medical care available.
At the end of the day only time will tell if these precautions will pay off. It only takes one day of forgetfulness or laziness to be unprotected, but I would like to think we have our bases covered. Going to South America when Zika is prevalent doesn’t mean we don’t care about our health. It just means that we need to put a bit more effort into maintaining it. A dorky outfit and some smelly repellents are a small price to pay to be able to follow our dream of travelling through South America!