We are aware that many travellers are concerned about the risk of Zika Virus which has recently been highlighted in the news. It can be very worrying when planning time abroad or having recently returned from an endemic country and we hope the following information will assist and reassure travellers.

There has been a significant increase in the number of cases reported globally and in particular in Latin America. The worrying finding is the potential risk in pregnancy to the unborn child and the World Health Organisation has therefore declared a Public Health Emergency.

Until more has been established regarding Zika Virus, the WHO and Public Health in the UK have recommended additional advice is offered to travellers to support a precautionary approach to risk.

The situation is varied across each country and more detailed information on individual country risk can be found here.

Signs and Symptoms of Zika

The symptoms of Zika Virus are similar to other mosquito-borne infections such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria so laboratory testing is essential for the correct diagnosis. Zika Virus is generally mild and self-limiting, lasting 2 to 7 days.

Symptoms of Zika Virus infection may include:

  • fever
  • joint pain
  • itching
  • rash
  • conjunctivitis or red eyes
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • eye pain

Public Health England is proactively monitoring the risks from Zika Virus and is working with government and NHS colleagues to ensure the UK remains alert to, and prepared for, cases returning with Zika Virus infection.

Prevention

Mosquito bite avoidance is strongly recommended for all travellers to Zika Virus affected countries. Individuals will be helped to understand the risks and to make an informed decision on whether to change their travel plans. It is important to remember there are other mosquito borne infections which may also be a risk such as Dengue Fever. A vaccine against Zika virus is not available.

If traveling to a Zika endemic area, rigorous measures to avoid mosquito bites during both daytime and night time hours are vital. It is not sufficient to assume that Aedes mosquitoes will only bite in daytime. Aedes sp mosquitoes are particularly persistent and aggressive biters. Winchester Travel Health strongly reccomend DEET- based insect repellents at a concentration of 50%, which should be applied regularly.

Mosquito Bite Avoidance:

  • Wearing loose, cover-up clothing is recommended.
  • Insecticide-impregnated (treated) bed nets and air conditioning should be used in bedrooms.
  • Reduction of mosquito breeding sites around hotel rooms/homes is advised for longer- term stays. Some resorts will provide this.
  • 50% DEET based skin repellent
  • Skin repellents should be applied 30 minutes after sun protection and should be repeated after swimming or if sunscreen is reapplied.
  • Once a day sunscreen may help reduce frequent applications
  • Fabric Spray is useful for clothing repellence and can be effective for 120 days or 36 washes so can be applied prior to travel.
  • Plug-In repellents can also help reduce mosquito bites.

Latest guidance for those who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy

The latest Zika guidance can be found on Public Health England website.