28 Mar Information about the Zika Virus Outbreak
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted three to four million people could be infected with Zika Virus in the Americas this year. There have also been cases reported in Denmark, UK and other European countries. Only one in five patients exposed to Zika develop symptoms which are usually mild. Common symptoms are fever, joint pains, rash, conjunctivitis as well as headache or muscle aches. The illness lasts up to a week and resolves spontaneously. Serious illness is very uncommon. However Zika does appear to pose a risk for pregnant patients – it is associated with a higher incidence of microcephaly in developing foetuses.
For the latest information customers should review the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website:
Zika is an illness caused by a virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito (which also transmits Dengue). It is present in tropical zones across the globe, including the Americas. Zika is not transmitted from human to human.
It is recommended that pregnant patients at any stage of pregnancy or those intending to become pregnant should consider deferring travel to affected areas.
Prevention: There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. Travelers are advised to take general measures to avoid mosquito borne diseases:
- Use DEET containing insect repellant. DEET is safe in pregnancy.
- Wear long sleeves and leggings
- Use screens and insect repellant impregnated mosquito nets or tents.
- Avoid being outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active.
If you think you may be pregnant and may have been exposed through travel and have any of the symptoms, you should see you doctor immediately.
According to the most recent situation report, the WHO indicates that Brazil has reported over 1.5 million cases of Zika. Colombia is the next most affected nation with a reported incidence of 27,000 cases.
While a number of countries have reported a rise in cases of microcephaly in foetuses and patients with Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) that correlate with the outbreaks of Zika, the strong suggestion of an association remains unproven. At this stage of investigation, according to the WHO “no scientific evidence to date confirms a link between Zika virus and microcephaly…”
The other postulated complication of Zika is the neurological syndrome Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). However, according to WHO, “the cause of the increase in GBS incidence observed in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Suriname remains unknown.” Furthermore, GBS cases are still considered rare events, far less common, for instance, than complicated malaria cases in many tropical countries.
As Zika infection has a benign course in the overwhelming majority of cases, no travel restrictions are in place for Zika affected countries. Currently WHO and other global health authorities are placing emphasis on aggressive mosquito control.
Current advice for travellers and foreigners considering long stays in Zika infested areas include:
* Pregnant women or those planning pregnancy should consider deferring travel to Zika affected countries.
* Pregnant women who have recently travelled to a Zika affected country or whose male partner has returned from such a location should inform their obstetrician for evaluation and monitoring of the pregnancy.
* Pregnant patients whose male partner has returned from a country with local Zika should strictly adhere to use of condoms or refrain from sexual relations for the duration of the pregnancy.
* Meticulous attention to mosquito protection and avoidance should be adopted in locations with known Zika propagation.
Employers and student travel managers are advised to educate potential travellers and expatriates considering travel to Zika affected countries as to the preventive measures and risks associated with travel to these countries.
As of 18/02/16 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has so far issued advisories for:
- Cabo Verde
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- New Caledonia
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Martin
- Solomon Islands
- The US Virgin Islands
What should the customers’ do if travel plans may be affected?
The situation is constantly evolving. In the case of the customers’ travel plans being impacted, they should:
- Contact the airline/transport provider or the airport/transport terminal the customer is due to be flying/travelling from to check the latest information about the travel arrangements.
- If the customer is in an affected area exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities.
- The list of affected countries is continuously being monitored and updated, for the current list please check: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/zika-virus-update/