Travel Advice on Zika Virus Disease

What is Zika Virus?

Zika Virus has been declared a “Public Health Emergency of International concern” (WHO).  It is a disease spread by mosquitos. This is not a new disease. The first human case was recognised in 1952. It is usually a mild illness which can occur up to seven days after a bite from an infected mosquito.  The illness usually lasts up to a week.  Symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, joint pain, headache.

Cases of Zika virus have recently been reported in Africa, Pacific Islands, Caribbean, Brazil and Southeast Asia.  In recent years there has been a rapid increase in cases of the disease. Due to the nature of the disease it continues to spread globally – therefore it is best to check with your doctor or travel clinic for latest updates especially if you are a pregnant traveller.

Who is at risk of Zika Virus?

Any traveller to areas of the world where the disease exists is at risk. Due to the mild nature of the illness a traveller might not even realise they have had the disease.

Experts believe that the biggest risk of this disease is for the unborn child.  There is growing evidence that Zika virus can cause birth defects.

Pregnancy and Zika Virus

Women travelling to areas where they will be at risk of Zika virus are advised:

  • In Pregnancy – postpone non-essential travel until after the pregnancy
  • If travel cannot be avoided bite prevention is essential
  • Avoid getting pregnant while away and for 28 days on return

How can I prevent Zika Virus?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, although trials are underway. The best method of prevention is bite prevention.  It is important to remember that the Ades mosquito bites during the day.

Evidence also suggests the disease can be passed sexually. In order to prevent transmission:

  • When a partner is pregnant a condom should be used during travel and for 28 days on return
  • If a partner is planning or could become pregnant condom use is recommended
  • A male partner with symptoms of the disease following travel is recommended to use a condom for 6 months

Countries where the virus is endemic will be the same countries that other mosquito borne disease can be spread such as Dengue and Chikungunya.

References and Further Information