The Zika virus has been a prominent discussion topic among travellers in 2016, particularly given the spotlight that the Olympic Games shone upon the issue.
Since it emerged in Brazil in May 2015, cases of the Zika virus have been discovered in almost 50 different countries in the Americas, as well as eight pacific islands, and new cases have recently been discovered in Europe.
The virus is transmitted via mosquito bites, but it can also be sexually transmitted. While Zika doesn’t cause serious complications in adults, it can adversely affect pregnancy, with symptoms including children being born with brain damage and abnormally small heads – a birth defect known as microcephaly.
There were fears that travellers heading to the Olympics in Rio – or on holiday to the Americas during Europe’s summertime – would bring the virus back with them, and there are signs that this has been the case.
The last months there have been more than 200 infections reported in Spain, and more than 50 people in the United Kingdom have been treated for the virus. So what does this mean for travellers in Europe over the coming months?
Don’t panic: mosquitoes don’t live everywhere
The Zika virus has spread around the world because mosquitoes have either bitten travellers, or grabbed a lift to another country on a boat or a plane. However, the areas where significant outbreaks have occurred are places that the Aedes Aegypti mosquito can thrive successfully, and that doesn’t apply to the whole of Europe.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) assessed the overall risk of a European Zika outbreak as “low to moderate” last year, and even though Zika has now reached Europe, there have been measures in place for some time to contain the virus.
Wherever you are travelling to, the best thing to do is inform yourself about the facts about Zika in your destination, and prepare yourself accordingly. If you are pregnant, it is particularly important to arm yourself with knowledge and protection against the threat of the Zika virus by not travelling to affected areas.
Know the risk
The WHO rated the following countries as having the highest likelihood of Zika transmission, based on factors including the presence of mosquitoes, suitable climate, and ship and flight connections:
- San Marino
These countries have all been taking precautions, as advised by the WHO, to avoid the introduction of mosquitoes at points of entry and strengthen disease surveillance. Where outbreaks have occurred, the WHO is providing support in the field.
If you are travelling to any countries that have already or might in future be affected by a spread of the Zika virus, the following precautions can help you to stay safe:
- Take sensible measures to prevent mosquito bites.
- Where long-sleeved shirts and long trousers in areas where mosquitoes might be present.
- Use insect repellents.
- Sleep in screened, air-conditioned rooms where possible.
- Protect children from mosquito bites using netting.
- Discuss the Zika virus with any sexual partners, to guard against transmission.
- If you are pregnant, don’t travel to an area with a current Zika outbreak.
If you are require medical help while travelling in Europe, or if you want to speak to a medical professional in your own language about the risks of Zika virus, you can contact TripMedic for free on 0034 938 004 804 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.