Find out all you need to know about the Zika Virus, which has now been declared a global health emergency, from Dr Graham Fry, Medical Director of Tropical Medical Bureau.
What is the Zika Virus?
Zika Virus is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes, similar in many ways to the better known Dengue Fever or Chikungunya.
What are the symptoms of Zika Virus?
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.
Why has it been declared a global emergency?
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.
Who is at risk?
There are concerns that there may be an association with foetal abnormality, in particular microcephaly, for women who become pregnant during infection.
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.”
Research is currently under way to generate more evidence regarding perinatal transmission and to better understand how the virus affects babies.
How can you prevent against the virus?
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.
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 and also to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents.
Dr Graham Fry is available for comment/interview. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are concerned following a trip or before you travel please see travel medical advice from Tropical Medical Bureau on 1850 487674 or visit www.tmb.ie.