Dr Graham Fry comments on the Zika Virus

The Zika virus is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes, similar in many ways to the better known Dengue Fever or Chikungunya.

The incubation period (time from infection to when you first develop symptoms) is usually 3 to 5 days and typical symptoms include fever, muscular aches and pains, headache and runny eyes – all very similar to what is seen in ‘flu’.

However, in many cases it appears that only 20% of those infected actually develop symptoms sufficient enough to cause problems.

The current major issue relates to risk of Zika Viral infection for pregnant women travelling to the at-risk regions, with the majority of the countries in Central, South and North America expected to report infections within the next months.

There are concerns that there may be an association with foetal abnormality, in particular Microcephaly, for women who become pregnant during infection.

World Health Organisation Zika Virus Information

Zika Virus Information – Travel Health

Dr Graham Fry, Medical Director of Tropical Medical Bureau, has said of the connection between the Zika Virus and pregnancy, “It is uncertain if there is a direct link between Zika infection and foetal abnormality and it is also uncertain if there is a higher risk at any one stage of pregnancy. While there is no specific treatment for those infected usually all that is required is for the individual’s own body defences to get to work”.

The main protection against the Zika Virus is to avoid travel to at-risk areas. If you must travel then you should ensure that you are protected against mosquito bites at all times by using a strong insect repellent that contains 55% DEET or higher.

“There is no vaccine against Zika viral infection, similar to many other mosquito borne diseases. As the CDC states ‘out of an abundance of caution’ pregnant women, or those planning to become pregnant, are advised to avoid unessential travel to countries reporting a high number of cases at this time.”

Research is currently under way to generate more evidence regarding perinatal transmission and to better understand how the virus affects babies.

For further information or to book an appointment, please contact the Tropical Medical Bureau on 1850 487674.