Web Alert: Zika virus considerations

News & Insights 3 February 2016


The World Health Organization has declared the recent outbreak of Zika virus a “global public health emergency”. This change in the status of this epidemic reflects the gravity with which the spread of Zika virus is now being viewed by international health organisation

The World Health Organization has declared the recent outbreak of Zika virus a “global public health emergency”. This change in the status of this epidemic reflects the gravity with which the spread of Zika virus is now being viewed by international health organisations. The Pan American Health Organization is publishing updates concerning the countries in which cases of Zika virus has been confirmed. This list currently includes:

1.Barbados       10. French Guiana              19. Nicaragua                  
2. Bolivia 11. Guadeloupe 20. Panama
3. Brazil 12. Guatemala 21. Paraguay
4. Columbia 13. Guyana 22. Puerto Rico
5. Costa Rica 14. Haiti 23. Saint Martin
6.Curacao 15. Honduras 24. Suriname
7. Dominican Republic      16. Jamaica 25. US Virgin Islands
8. Equador 17. Martinque 26. Venezuela
9. El Salvador 18. Mexico  

 

About the virus

Zika virus is transmitted from person to person by mosquitos (most commonly Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito which also transmits dengue fever and yellow fever).  For the majority of those infected with the Zika virus, the symptoms can be unpleasant but not serious. The WHO describes the virus as “relatively mild and requiring no specific treatment”. They advise that persons diagnosed with Zika virus should:

  • Drink enough fluids
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Treat pain and fever with common medicines
  • Seek medical care and advice if symptoms worsen

This recent epidemic has featured widely in the international media and been declared a health emergency by the WHO due to a possible causal link between the Zika virus and birth defects amongst children born to women who were infected whilst pregnant. Many health organisations have therefore advised pregnant women, or women who are trying to get pregnant, against travel to areas affected by the virus. This advice should also be considered by women currently serving at sea who are in or due to visit one of the affected areas.

Mosquito bite prevention: general advice

Currently there is no vaccine for Zika virus. The most effective way to prevent the Zika virus infection is to prevent the mosquito bites which spread the virus.

Mosquitoes that spread the virus bite mostly during the daytime. When traveling to countries where the Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, take the following steps:

  • Use insect repellents
    • When used as directed, insect repellents are safe and effective for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women
    • Most insect repellents can be used on children.  Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus for children under the age of three years.
    • Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
    • If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent
    • Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing
    • Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.
  • Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
  • When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers
  • Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside accommodation, sleep under a mosquito bed net
  • Help reduce the number of mosquitoes inside and outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets

If you have Zika, protect yourself from further mosquito bites, especially during the first week of illness. This will stop the mosquito passing the virus to other people.

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