The Zika Virus has been making headlines recently for it’s frightening links to rare birth defects. Brazil has even gone as far as to warn women to avoid falling pregnant whilst an epidemic is rife. The link between 400 cases of new-borns with microcephaly in the north-east of Brazil is being investigate by health authorities.
The increase in microcephaly, a neurological disorder that stunts the growth of the baby’s cranium, limiting it to a circumference of less than 33cm, has increased in Brazil from 59 cases in 2014, rising to 1,248 cases throughout 2015. Typically, life expectancy for babies born with the condition is reduced. In 90% of cases, brain function is also reduced. There are currently no travel restrictions in affected areas.
How is the virus contracted?
The Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Outbreaks have been seen across Africa, Asia, Central and South America.
What are the the symptoms and treatment?
The common symptoms, usually mild and often lasting from a few days to one week, can be a rash, fever, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. There is currently no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the virus. Pain killers can be used to alleviate these symptoms which often go mistaken as a fever, and can easily be missed, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.
Is there a way to reduce my risk?
Insect bite precautions is paramount, especially for pregnant women in the affected areas. The NHS travel website, Fit For Travel, recommends:
- Covering up – wearing long sleeved tops and long trousers
- Spraying thinner clothing with insect repellent
- Burning pyrethroid coils and heating insecticide impregnated tablets
- Sleeping in a screened room where possible or using a treated mosquito net
If you are travelling to Brazil or any of the infected areas, book an appointment with one of our dedicated Travel Clinic nurses for information on vaccines and travel wellbeing now on 020 7353 5678.
Zika Virus – Additional Resources
Zika virus: medical advice for travellers – The Telegraph – Richard Dawood
Zika Virus – Video
Watch Fleet Street Clinic’s Dr Richard Dawood discuss Zika Virus on Victoria Derbyshire.