Zika Virus infection is caused by the Zika Virus (ZIKV) belonging to the Flaviviridae family. The virus is primarily transmitted by infected daytime biting female Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes which are typically active from dawn to dusk. There is evidence that Zika Virus is also transmitted by other mosquitoes belonging to the Aedes genus. The virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
Zika Virus is present in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Oceania, and parts of Africa. All travellers are at risk. Long-term travellers and aid or missionary workers going to areas where Zika Virus is endemic are at greater risk.
Zika Virus is associated with neurological complications: Guillain-Barré syndrome (progressive muscle weakness that can lead to temporary paralysis) and microcephaly (decreased head size which may lead to developmental delays) in infants born to pregnant women infected with the virus.
Is Zika Virus still a risk?
Real-time data on Zika Virus outbreaks and transmission is often not available. This is because most people who become infected with Zika Virus do not show signs or symptoms. In some countries, reliable reporting and monitoring systems that track virus transmission may not be available. As a result, it is not always possible to convey a country’s current level of risk, but travellers should take precautions where risk exists.
All travellers going to areas with Zika Virus risk are advised to take mosquito bite precautions, particularly during the daytime. Pregnant women or couples considering pregnancy should consult a healthcare practitioner prior to travel.
In the majority of cases, Zika Virus infection is asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms. Those with symptoms usually get ill 3-12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include mild fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and general malaise. The illness is characterized by pink eye (inflammation of the conjunctiva), a skin rash with red spots on the face, neck, trunk, and upper arms which can spread to the palms or soles, and sensitivity to light. Some may also have a lack of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, and dizziness. Most people fully recover from the illness within 7 days. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms. There is no antiviral treatment available.
Travellers going to areas with Zika Virus should take meticulous measures to prevent mosquito bites during the daytime. There is currently no preventive medication or vaccine against Zika Virus.
Travellers who are pregnant or considering pregnancy should take special precautions for themselves and their partners.
Pregnant women: If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, you should consider postponing travel to areas with risk of Zika Virus transmission. Avoid travel to areas with active Zika Virus outbreaks.
Travellers with a pregnant partner: Practice safe sex for the duration of the pregnancy after returning from an area with Zika Virus transmission.
Travellers considering pregnancy: After visiting an area at risk of Zika Virus transmission, men should wait 3 months and women should wait 2 months before trying to conceive. If both partners travelled together, they should wait 3 months.
Practice safe sex or abstinence even if you or your partner do not have symptoms. Most Zika Virus infections are asymptomatic (show no signs or symptoms), but sexual transmission of the virus can still occur.
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Information last updated: June 11, 2020