All about Zika Virus (zika virus microcefalia )

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Zika Virus (zika virus microcefalia )

On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil and possible association with Zika virus. We have also added Curaçao and Nicaragua to the list of countries of concern due to ongoing transmission of Zika.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. Areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time. We advise travellers, particularly pregnant women, to be aware of the areas of ongoing transmission.

All about Zika Virus (ZIKV)

Zika Virus

The Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne disease, which is transmitted by some species of Aedes mosquito, particularly Aedes aegypti. These mosquitoes bite in the day, particularly around dawn and dusk.

Most people who get infected with Zika virus do not show any symptoms. Only one in five people who get it will feel sick. In some cases, Zika infection can cause fever, rash, severe headache, joint pain, and muscle or bone pain. Illness from Zika is usually not severe and does not require hospitalisation.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika virus and no specific treatment.

Recent outbreaks in Central and South America, particularly Brazil, have raised concerns that there is a possible association between infection with Zika virus in pregnant women and certain birth defects (including microcephaly, a severe birth defect in newborn babies). The causal link is not yet scientifically proven.

There are also concerns that in rare instances Zika infection can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a serious immune system disorder.

Spread of the virus: The Virus has been known since 1947, and has gained a higher profile due to suspected links between it and cases of microcephaly. Outbreaks of Zika virus have previously been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

The first documented outbreak of Zika virus in the Pacific occurred on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2007. In October 2013, French Polynesia reported its first outbreak, which then spread to other Pacific Islands. At present in our region, only Samoa and Tonga are reported as having an ongoing outbreak.

On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil and potential association with Zika virus.

List of Countries with ongoing transmission of Zika

Areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time. This list covers the key countries of concern:

  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Cape Verde
  • Curaçao
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadelope
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saint Martin
  • Samoa
  • Suriname
  • Tonga
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela

Further cases of Zika may be reported from other nearby countries where there are suitable species of mosquitoes that can transmit the virus.

Travel advice

Travellers should read the country advice for their destination and monitor the media closely before and during travel.

If travelling to any of the countries listed above, all travellers are strongly urged to protect themselves by taking measures to prevent mosquito bites (see below).

Until more is known about Zika virus, and taking a very cautious approach, we advise women who are pregnant (in any trimester) or those who are actively seeking to get pregnant to consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing (see list above). If you do decide to travel, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.

Women who are pregnant and have recently travelled to areas where there is ongoing Zika virus transmission and suffered an illness that you think might be Zika should see a doctor.

Preventative measures

All travellers are advised to take the following mosquito bite prevention measures when travelling to areas currently affected by Zika virus or wherever mosquito borne diseases are present. These precautions are necessary in the daytime as well as night time.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin. Always use as directed. Insect repellents containing DEET and picaridin are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children older than 2 months when used according to the product label
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents)
  • Use insecticide-treated bed nets as necessary
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.

Additional resources

World Health Organization:

Department of Health:

Pan-American Health Organisation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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