Search

News

Zika Virus - Latest info from the World Health Organization

C57630A04591174080C546154E25E7Cf Xl

The World Health Organization offers the information below on the Zika Virus. Seafarers travelling in the affected areas should take extra care to protect against mosquito bites.

Serious long-term symptoms are uncommon, but there are reports that the virus can be harmful for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Please see further information here http://www.cdc.gov/zika/

Travel advice published by Public Health England (PHE) states that the risk of sexual transmission of the virus is thought to be "very low", but it has occurred "in a small number of cases".

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) thus cautions women at risk of being, or already, pregnant, that if her partner has travelled to an affected country, condom use "is advised" for 28 days after [the partner's] return home "if he had no Zika symptoms", but "for six months following recovery if he experienced Zika symptoms or a Zika virus infection has been confirmed by a doctor". http://bit.ly/1QE5R7Q

Further information for seafarers on safe travel can be found here

Zika Virus Key facts
• Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
• People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
• There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
• The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
• The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Introduction
Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

• Genre: Flavivirus
• Vector: Aedes mosquitoes (which usually bite during the morning and late afternoon/evening hours)
• Reservoir: Unknown

Signs and Symptoms
The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is not clear, but is likely to be a few days. The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.

During large outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil in 2013 and 2015 respectively, national health authorities reported potential neurological and auto-immune complications of Zika virus disease. Recently in Brazil, local health authorities have observed an increase in Zika virus infections in the general public as well as an increase in babies born with microcephaly in northeast Brazil. Agencies investigating the Zika outbreaks are finding an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly. However, more investigation is needed before we understand the relationship between microcephaly in babies and the Zika virus. Other potential causes are also being investigated.

Transmission
Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Zika virus disease outbreaks were reported for the first time from the Pacific in 2007 and 2013 (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and in 2015 from the Americas (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde). In addition, more than 13 countries in the Americas have reported sporadic Zika virus infections indicating rapid geographic expansion of Zika virus.

Diagnosis
Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.

Prevention
Mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.
This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed. Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.

During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.

Travellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Treatment
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. There is currently no vaccine available.

Information about the virus is also available from the US centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

Stay up to date with ISWAN's monthly email newsletter