With the 2016 Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro later this summer, concerns have been raised over the dangers of the Zika Virus and how it may affect those travelling to the games.
Zika Virus and Pregnancy
The main concern with travellers is if they or their partner are planning to get pregnant within the next 6 to 12 months. If the answer is ‘no’ then Zika is of limited importance as, in the vast majority of cases, it is a mild viral illness, usually lasting just a few days and with little to no significant consequences. The exception to this general rule is where pregnancy may be a factor.
In the countries that have been affected there is not a 100% risk of contracting the disease. However, most patients considering pregnancy would prefer to avoid the potential worry and concern at a time when they should be enjoying the whole pregnancy process.
Then, in the cases where someone does become pregnant after exposure, or potential exposure, to Zika the risk of having a child with microcephaly remains small and is by no means a 100% certainty.
If you are travelling to areas where the Zika Virus is present, such as Brazil, then women are advised not to get pregnant until at least eight weeks after returning. Male travellers who are not showing any symptoms should not have unprotected sex during the trip or in the eight weeks following their return. If men do have symptoms of Zika, they should not have unprotected sex for six months.
What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika Virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, though sexual transmission has increasingly been documented, and many cases are asymptomatic; with only 20% of those infected actually developing symptoms sufficient enough to cause problems.
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’.
Dr Graham Fry, Medical Director of Tropical Medical Bureau, has said of the Zika Virus, “There is no vaccine against Zika viral infection, similar to many other mosquito borne diseases. 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 mosquito bites in known at-risk regions of the world.”
Various tests are now available through TMB clinics to assess any potential exposure and this service is being used by a number of patients for a variety of different reasons, such as for those undergoing IVF or planning pregnancy within months of exposure or potential exposure.
Dr Graham Fry is available for comment/interview. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To book an appointment, please contact the Tropical Medical Bureau on 1850 487674 or visit www.tmb.ie.