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Zika Virus Update

21 Feb 2016
Operation Smile Statement on Zika Virus

Operation Smile is committed to the health and well-being of all its employees and volunteers. In regards to the recent outbreak of Zika virus, we are continuously reviewing and monitoring the situation in order to ensure the safety of our volunteers and employees. 

Zika virus is spread to people through infected mosquitoes. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). When symptoms are present, the virus is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe symptoms requiring hospitalization are uncommon. There is no specific medicine for Zika virus symptoms, and there is no available vaccine.

Operation Smile will be conducting medical missions in countries that are currently known to have cases of Zika virus. These countries include: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Venezuela. All medical mission participants are encouraged to use all forms of protection against mosquito-borne diseases.

These include:

* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

* Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside

* Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are unable to protect yourself from mosquito bites at night

* Use EPA-registered insect repellents

Operation Smile recommends that all female employees and volunteers who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant near the time of their visit to the affected countries, not participate in the medical mission. In addition, it has been reported that Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact. Therefore, it is recommended that all volunteers and employees take necessary precautions when returning from a mission to prevent the potential spread of the virus to his or her partner.

The health and safety of our volunteers and employees continues to be a top priority for the organization. For those who do opt to go on medical missions in countries where Zika virus is present, our team will work vigorously to minimize exposure.

For preventative measures, a comprehensive discussion, and frequent questions and answers, please reference the Centers for Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/zika