Now that the voyaging canoe Hokulea has arrived in Brazil, the Polynesian Voyaging Society is taking extra precautions to protect crew members against the Zika virus.
Hokulea arrived on the island of Fernando de Noronha Thursday, 200 miles off Brazil’s northeast coast. She and her crew should be departing for Natal, Brazil in a day or two.
A medical team has been planning and setting guidelines for this voyage around the world from the beginning, and a medical officer is on board for each leg of the voyage.
The crew has already faced chicken gunya in Polynesia,and Dr. Vernon Ansdell, who is a tropical medicine travel disease specialist, told the PVS doctor about polio in Madagascar one month before the Centers for Disease Control issued warnings, so he was on top of the Zika outbreak in Brazil as well.
Dr. Ansdell said insect repellants are being used “to prevent getting bitten by the mosquitoes that cause the infections, but once we realized the probable link with microcephaly, then I thought it was very reasonable to recommend that any of the female crew should get tested to make sure they’re not pregnant before they get on the canoe.
“The next crew that’s going up, we’re telling them if a female crew member gets pregnant, and if she’s pregnant before they go, she probably shouldn’t,” said PVS medical officer Dr. Ben Tamura.
Tamura said the Polynesian Voyaging Society follows CDC guidelines in treating crew members land clothes with an insecticide and having them use EPA approved mosquito repellants for exposed skin, as well as staying indoors as much as possible.
The current crew happens to be all men, but there will be one woman on the next leg from Brazil to the Caribbean.