The Truth About Zika in Costa Rica (It’s Not What You Think!)

Worried about the Zika Virus? Holed up inside with swatters and a can of bug repellent? Cancelling those long-planned flights and hotel rooms because mosquitoes are unpredictable?

Don’t worry, you’re not being overly paranoid. The Zika virus is a real danger to a lot of people. And it has spread rapidly throughout Latin America, even reaching the shores of the United States. So it’s perfectly normal to feel pressure to stay home.

But if you’ve rescheduled your trip to Costa Rica, you’re actually doing yourself a great disservice. The truth is, Zika is not quite the problem there that it is in inner Brazil, or even in the U.S.

Costa Rica is a tropical country. They are accustomed to mosquitoes. The entire country has a robust and long-standing infrastructure to deal with the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. (This is not their first rodeo. Mosquitoes have been spreading diseases throughout Latin America since practically the beginning of time.)

Both Costa Rica and Panama have relatively few confirmed cases, and nearly any resort in Costa Rica will be prepared to help travelers avoid mosquitoes, such as netting and available repellent.

And, of course, an educated traveler is much less likely to contract the disease. Research is always part of preparation when travelling somewhere new, and fortunately, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) has put together some very handy tips for avoiding mosquitoes and the Zika virus:

Insect repellent.
You will be able to find some readily available throughout Costa Rica with 20%-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin, which is what IAMAT recommends. Apply and re-apply regularly throughout the day, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply sunscreen twenty minutes before insect repellent.

Wear light gray or beige clothing (or some other neutral color).
Mosquitos tend to be thrown off by this kind of coloring. Cover your whole body — long sleeves included. And remember, it’s very warm in Costa Rica, so make it light-weight!

Permethrin.
Spray before going out, or, preferably, pre-soak with it.

No open water.
Make sure you do not keep any open water hanging around. If you see some, empty it if you can. And as an extra precaution, always ask resort/hotel proprietors how they make sure that no water sits open.

Make sure your doors and windows close properly.
This is something you could ask other travelers about on TripAdvisor or some other community-driven travel review sites. You can also call a resort you’re looking at and ask them directly.

And if you’re still worried — fear not. According to Costa Rica Guide, “A potential breakthrough for the treatment of Zika infections and prevention of microcephaly was reported today in one of the world’s leading scientific journals… One of the most exciting aspects of this discovery is that it’s possible it may lead to a viable treatment quite soon because one of the compounds is already approved and could shortcut the sometimes years long FDA approval process.”

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