Preparation for most mission trips includes packing supplies, studying cultural differences, and prayer. Senior Victoria Carbonell and juniors, Kathleen Berns and Meggie Hall, had to be aware of mosquitoes.
The Olivet students were saw cases of the Zika virus–which is transferred primarily by mosiquotes–when they traveled to Haiti for two weeks to teach Vacation Bible School lessons to 28 sponsored children. None of them contracted the Zika virus because of their preventative measures.
“The missionaries and our team leader shared that the mosquitos had never been too bad in the mountain area we were in. They said that we wouldn’t have to worry about getting Zika,” Carbonell said.
The virus is not severe for most people with a healthy immune system. Pregnant women are most at risk for contracting the virus.
“Coming to Haiti and knowing that the Zika virus was present in some regions, didn’t scare me too much. It was my fourth trip there and I had been there when the Chikungunya virus and Malaria were going around,” Hall said.
While the students were not afraid of being infected with Zika in Haiti, Illinois officials are weary of a Zika outbreak in the state. According to the CDC, there have been 51 travel-related cases discovered in Illinois.
Zika causes flu-like symptoms such as body aches, joint pain, throwing up and fever. These symptoms only last for a few days to a week.
“Zika is getting such a craze from the media, because of bad fetal abnormalities,” Berns said. If a pregnant woman was to get infected with the Zika virus, there could be fatal consequences for her baby. They could also be born with an abnormally small head and brain, which is a condition called microcephaly.
For those who are planning on traveling to high risk areas, Laura Sztuba, Director of Client Services and Health Promotion at the Kankakee Health Department, advises those who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant to avoid Zika-infected areas.
To protect yourself from getting the virus best thing to do is to continuously spray bug repellent, keep the windows closed and wear long shirts and pants, Sztuba said. To protect themselves throughout their trip, Berns, Carbonell, and Hall frequently applied bug spray and slept in mosquito nets.
As a nursing student, Berns was very interested in learning about the Zika virus and how to treat it.
“A person should drink water and other fluids, along with taking acetaminophen to break down the fever,” Berns said. On the contrary, one should avoid taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
In the midst of the Zika virus craze, the focus of the trip was to spread the Word of God. The 28 children that they taught, were the first students to attend class at Cornerstone School of Truth, in Haiti, which began on Sept. 5.
“It was amazing to see them and how they reacted; they hungered for the Word,” Berns said.
–Danielle Snuckel, Assistant Life and Culture Editor