On the heels of their pregnancy announcement, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are not changing their current tour schedule, which will see them travel to Fiji and Tonga, where the Zika virus has been detected.
The royal couple has reportedly sought medical advice about the virus, which can cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly.
Professor James G Logan, Head of the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tells PEOPLE: “I’m sure that they will have sought travel health advice in terms of protective methods in terms of mosquito bites. There is a lot you can do to minimize risks.”
“The advice would be to wear a repellent which contains an active ingredient and wear that repellent all day and all evening. You have to put the repellent on like a hand cream. You have to really rub it in. If you squirt it on like a perfume, that won’t do anything because the mosquito will find a bit that’s not covered. A spray or a lotion is fine but really rub it in and reapply it often. There are four active ingredients, one of the main ones is DEET and it’s safe to use that during pregnancy.”
“Wearing long sleeves and baggy clothes will help,” he adds. “Mosquitos can even bite through jeans so if the clothing is loose it’s much harder for the mosquito to bite. Wearing light-colored clothing can help as these mosquitos are often attracted to dark clothing. It also helps you spot them, if you see a dark mosquito on a light piece of clothing.
“Generally the risk is low but, there is still a risk and you need to weigh up how to protect yourself and make sure you are fully informed.”
However, if you must travel to an area with risk of Zika, the CDC recommends the following for pregnant women:
– Talk to your doctor or other health care provider before you travel.
– Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during travel and for 3 weeks after your return.
– Strictly follow steps to prevent sexual transmission during your trip.
– See your doctor after your return, even if you do not have symptoms.
– Tell your doctor about possible Zika exposure at each prenatal care visit.
If your partner travels:
– Use condoms every time you have sex—or do not have sex—for the rest of the pregnancy, even if your partner does not have symptoms or feel sick.
Like its sister virus West Nile, Zika is transmitted through mosquitos, specifically the Aedes aegypti mosquito. A mosquito bites an individual with an active infection and then spreads the virus to others. Those bitten become carriers.
Zika can be transmitted to fetuses through a pregnant woman’s amniotic fluid. Health officials have officially linked it to microcephaly, a neurological disorder that leads to babies being born with much-smaller-than-normal heads. This can lead to problems with development and in some cases, even death. There is currently no vaccine or cure.
Meghan and Harry touched down in Sydney, Australia, early Monday local time. And just like their very first appearance together last year at the Invictus Games in Toronto, the newlyweds arrived hand-in-hand.
After spending the first day of their tour in Sydney, Harry and Meghan will head to the popular tourist spot of Dubbo, in New South Wales. Then it is on to Melbourne before returning to Sydney in time for the Invictus Games, Harry’s Paralympic-style event created for wounded or injured armed service members. The Invictus Games run from Oct. 20 through Oct 27.
They will travel to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, that sits just off Australia’s Queensland coast. The tour ends on Oct. 31 at the lakeside town of Rotorua in New Zealand, which is known for its bubbling mud pools fueled by the geothermal activity, and traditional Maori culture.
“The program across these four Commonwealth counties will focus on youth leadership, environmental and conservation efforts — including the dedication of several new Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy projects — and the recovery and rehabilitation of servicemen and woman through the Invictus Games Sydney 2018,” the couple’s office at Kensington Palace said in a statement.