By Geoff McCabe
A few people have contacted us, concerned about the Zika Virus. Others have become concerned because of frantic and panicked relatives who are urging them not to travel to affected countries. Please keep in mind that the media loves to scare everyone… that’s how they make money and keep you coming back to the adrenaline bursts they give you with scary news and photos. Remember the Bird Flu? SARS? H1N1? These viruses, that were actually dangerous (unlike Zika) were all supposed to kill everyone and where did they go? The media moves on to something else… A really great book to read about how the media does this, and why, is shown below. It’s absolutely fascinating reading, and a big eye-opener to learn how much we’re manipulated by people in power using fear tactics by the press.
Are you absolutely terrified of getting the flu? Did you know that according to the CDC, the Flu kills around 36,000 people every year in the United States?!? (Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/11/health/top-flu-questions-answered/) Where is the panic over this? if you’re scared of Zika, maybe you should instead leave the United States immediately and move to Costa Rica to escape the flu?
The reality is that Zika Virus is only a concern for pregnant women, because of a possible, as yet unproven link to Microcephaly, whereby a baby’s head fails to develop properly. Read more about this in Wired Magazine here: Does the Zika Virus Cause Birth Defects? If you’re not pregnant, then Zika isn’t even an issue to worry about. Even if you are pregnant, there’s no reason to worry about visiting our part of Costa Rica if you take some simple precautions (listed below.) And in case you’re wondering whether getting Zika could affect your baby in the future, the answer is clearly NO according to the CDC. If you get Zika, your immune system will destroy it in a few days and so there’s nothing left of it to affect a future pregnancy.
If you’re not pregnant, the symptoms of Zika are very mild and not much different than getting a flu, so it’s nothing to be concerned about. Most people don’t even know they have it! Here’s what the CDC says about it: “The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.”
Zika is spread by the Aedus mosquito. This is the same mosquito that carries Dengue Fever, which we have in Costa Rica in every town. Every year, a few dozen people in Montezuma get Dengue. None of Anamaya’s guests have ever got Dengue while here. This mosquito only bites during the daytime, and especially on the back of your heels, such as while you’re eating with your feet in the dark under a tablecloth. When Dengue is around Montezuma, we know it’s here, and tell our guests to be cautious. Going to the beach isn’t a problem, and if you put on bug repellent, especially below your knees, it’s going to be very safe.
Because Zika can only be spread by this one type mosquito, it takes a long time to get to a place like Montezuma, and even if it does, the risk to Anamaya’s guests is minimal. The Aedus mosquito isn’t native to Costa Rica and doesn’t live in our jungles. It only lives around dense settlements of people, which is why it has spread so fast in the barrios of big cities in Brazil and other such places. It doesn’t fly very far and can’t reach Anamaya from town, so even if it was down in Montezuma, you wouldn’t have to worry about it here. I have lived here for 11 years and none of my family has ever got Dengue. I know several people who did get Dengue, and all of them lived or worked in town, so the risk to our guests is very minimal. And as I said already, the Zika virus is very mild, so even if you did get it, it’s not going to be a big deal.
In my opinion, with all things considered, our guests are much more likely to get the flu on the airplane on the way down here, rather than catch Zika.
If you’re concerned with Zika, then I recommend the following precautions:
1. Ask our staff if there’s currently any Zika cases in Montezuma or Santa Teresa.
2. If so, avoid going to hang out in town during the day. (Night is OK after sunset.)
3. Beaches are fine, but avoid heavily shaded areas with low airflow.
4. Wear bug repellent, especially on your feet, ankles, and legs when in town. At Anamaya you don’t need it.
5. If you do go to town during an outbreak, don’t hang around darker areas or sit with your legs under a tablecloth.
So to sum up, remember that Zika virus isn’t a concern unless you’re pregnant, because its symptoms are very mild and you’re very unlikely to contract it in this part of Costa Rica anyway.