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Key facts

  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best type of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
  • The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Background

A number of countries, mainly in the Americas region, experience local transmission of the Zika virus. These currently include: Barbados, Brazil, Boliva, Cape Cerde, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Maldives, Martinique, Mexico, New Caledonia, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Thailand and Venezuela. For updates of countries with local Zika virus transmission click here

Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread Dengue and Chikungunya viruses. Consequently, a wider spread is theoretically possible, including parts of Southern Europe.

The Zika virus is a viral illness, transmitted through mosquito bites. It is usually a mild disease. Symptoms include fever, rash, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and muscle and joint aches, just like many other illnesses. Most people recover within a week. No specified treatment is available. There does not exist any vaccine to prevent Zika virus disease. However, concerns have been raised regarding the Zika virus’s potential link to neurological complications in pregnant women infected by the virus. The virus can be spread from pregnant women to their unborn babies. There have been reports of a serious birth defect in the brain and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were affected by the Zika virus during pregnancy. 

Five Tips for travelers to Zika-affected areas

  1. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  2. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, consider permethrin-treated clothing
  3. Stay overnight in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  4. Sleep underneath a mosquito net if you are traveling oversea or staying outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  5. Use insect repellents. 
    1. Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    2. Do not spray repellent onto the skin underneath pieces of clothing.
    3. If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying the insect repellent.

 

Advice for pregnant women travelling to Zika-affected area’s

If you are pregnant (any trimester) or consider pregnancy:

  1. Consider postponing traveling to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing
  2. If still trying to become pregnant, consider delaying pregnancy 
  3. Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.

Links

These links may be helpful for following the development of the Zika virus outbreak

ECDC frequently updates its risk assessment. Their latest edition (8 February) is available here.

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