Zika Virus Announcement
Suspension of volunteer travel to mexico
due to the Zika Virus
In October 2015 an association was discovered in Brazil between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in the offspring. (Microcephaly is a medical condition in which the brain does not develop properly, resulting in a smaller than normal head and often intellectual disability.) Subsequent studies suggest that contraction of the Zika virus can also cause neurological conditions in adults such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a condition that causes immune system damage. In addition, the long-term developmental consequences of fetal Zika infection in the absence of microcephaly and the incidence of serious neurological condition in adults infected with Zika, are not yet known.
Zika virus is transmitted via the Aedes aegypti mosquito and also through sexual contact. When an individual contracts the Zika virus the initial symptoms are mild or often nonexistent. A blood test for Zika exists, but there is currently no treatment or vaccine.
As Zika virus has moved north through the hemisphere we have been closely monitoring the situation. Simply Smiles has significant program activities in both urban and rural regions of Oaxaca, Mexico, and our initial response was to follow the recommendations for prevention of contraction from the Centers for Disease Control and to suspend travel for organized groups of volunteers to Simply Smiles program locations at lower altitudes where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is more prevalent. Both of these actions were taken proactively before we knew of any confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in Mexico.
Recently, through our medical contacts in Oaxaca, Mexico we learned that there are now numerous confirmed cases of Zika virus in Oaxaca de Juárez City, which is at an elevation of over 5,000 feet above sea level and where Simply Smiles has been continuing to operate with the support of volunteers who travel to Mexico from abroad.
Due to the dangers, unknowns and rapid spread of Zika virus in Mexico, to protect the health and safety of our volunteers, Simply Smiles is suspending volunteer travel to all of our program locations in Mexico.
We will continue to monitor the emerging information about Zika and hope to resume volunteer travel when it is safe to do so. Individuals and groups interested in volunteering with Simply Smiles are encouraged to consider participation in our domestic programs on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota.
Simply Smiles now faces the challenge of continuing our vital humanitarian efforts in Mexico without the support of traveling volunteers and in a manner that mitigates the risk of infection for our Mexican staff members. We are currently implementing, and will continue to develop, actions to do just that across our programs in Mexico. We have already distributed to the local population thousands of informational flyers about the dangers of Zika and how to prevent infection. Staff members are protecting themselves and those in our care from mosquito bites. And we are working in conjunction with medical professionals both in the United States and in Mexico so that we can formulate and execute the most appropriate and effective responses to the Zika virus threat.
We need your support now more than ever. Without the incredible contribution of our volunteers, we will need to hire additional staff people in Mexico to be able to continue our efforts to eradicate parasitic round-worm infection and for the daily operations of the Casa Hogar Simply Smiles Home for Children. Please consider making a designated contribution in support of our Mexican programs. Thank you for your understanding and support.