According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two of the major diseases in the Marshall Islands to be wary of are the Zika virus and typhoid. Here is some information about avoiding these two diseases and why prevention is so important.

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus is transmitted through mosquitos and causes flu-like symptoms that last up to a week. Although this is mild compared to other diseases and it is rare for someone to present symptoms at all, the real danger occurs when a pregnant woman catches the virus, as this can cause congenital brain abnormalities such as microcephaly. Microcephaly, the medical term for a smaller-than-expected head size in an infant, often indicates an under-developed brain, explains the CDC, because the human skull expands to accommodate a growing brain.

The government of the Marshall Islands has reported that mosquitos in the area are infected with Zika and that the virus is spreading. Recommended prevention includes wearing long sleeves, remaining indoors and practicing safe sex, as the virus is often sexually transmitted. Although there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, people can avoid infected mosquitos by emptying or covering areas of stagnant water — including tires and pots — since these are the places where mosquitos are likely to breed.

Typhoid fever, on the other hand, is spread through bacteria in food and water. According to the CDC, there is no risk of transmitting the disease in utero, but it is a more serious condition. Using proper hygiene and cooking techniques can prevent typhoid. A vaccine exists, and medication is available to prevent the spread of the disease. When contracted, typhoid also causes flu-like symptoms, and can ultimately lead to death as a result of diarrhea and dehydration. Gastrointestinal diseases like typhoid are among the major diseases in the Marshall Islands, but, since 1990, instances of the disease has decreased by 91.6 percent.

Today’s major killer in the Marshall Islands is non-communicable: cardiovascular diseases. Top risk factors for the country are high Body Mass Index, high glucose levels and dietary issues. High blood pressure, low rates of physical activity and smoking are also considered to be risk factors.

Citizens in the country, as well as travelers, can avoid contracting the major diseases in the Marshall Islands by using these prevention tactics.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr