What is the Zika Virus?
Zika fever is a viral illness transmitted by Aedas mosquitoes. It
has an association with microcephaly, a condition in which the head and
brain are unusually small, and which can occur in the womb or in
infancy. For this reason, women who are pregnant or trying to
conceive are being advised to avoid visiting locations where cases of
Zika have been reported.
Why might it be spreading to Europe?
It is thought that the warmer summer weather could bring Aedas mosquitoes (which carry the virus) to Europe. The World Health Organisation has said the risk of contracting Zika various from country to country. The areas classified as high risk are the Madeira Island in Portugal and the northeastern Black Sea Coast. The areas where there is 'moderate' risk are:
France, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Israel, Spain Monaco, San Marino, Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Georgia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
Which countries are definitely affected?
Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El
Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti,
Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint
Martin, Suriname, the US Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
Should I cancel my holiday?
Currently the FCO advises that "Travellers who are pregnant (in any
trimester) or planning to become pregnant [...] should consider
avoiding travel to an area where active Zika transmission is being
Will my insurance cover me if I have to cancel my trip?
ABTA have advised that if you
are already pregnant and have a doctor's certificate
saying you should not travel, your insurance
claim should be straightforward. If you are pregnant and book a trip in a month or two,
you may find your insurance company refuses to reimburse you on the
grounds that you should have been aware of the dangers.
Can I minimise my chances of catching Zika?
There is currently no vaccination or medication available for Zika.
advises: "If travel is unavoidable
[...] take scrupulous measures to avoid mosquito bites
during both daytime and night time hours. Aedes mosquitoes predominantly
bite during the day and also around dawn and dusk (as opposed to mosquitoes
that transmit malaria, which bite at night between dusk and dawn)."
The FCO adds: "Whilst almost all cases of Zika are acquired via
mosquito bites, a small number of cases have occurred through sexual
transmission or by transmission from mother to foetus via the placenta."
What are the symptoms?
The majority of people infected will not display symptoms - only one in
four, according to WHO. For those that do display symptoms, Zika virus
generally causes a mild illness lasting between two and seven
days. Typical symptoms include:
- a low-grade fever
- joint pain (with possible
swelling mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet)
- conjunctivitis/red eyes
- muscle pain
- eye pain
When should I visit a doctor?
If you have just returned from a country where Zika has been reported, inform your obstetrician or midwife straight away.
Otherwise, WHO advice states "Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and
requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get
plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common
medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice."