The following information is intended for staff and students who intend to travel to, or have recently returned from an area which is affected by the Zika virus.
Zika- Key Facts
The zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by the Aedes mosquito;
For most people, it is a very mild infection and is not harmful, however it may be more serious for pregnant women, as there is evidence that it can cause birth defects.
People with zika virus disease normally have symptoms which can include mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for around 2- 7 days;
For travellers to affected countries, there is a low risk of infection which may result in mild symptoms in the majority of cases;
For pregnant travellers or for women who may become pregnant during or soon after travel, the risk is considered to be higher due to the possible association of the zika virus infection and microcephaly in babies;
There is no specific treatment or vaccine available;
The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific.
The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
How you catch zika virus infection*
Most cases of zika virus disease are spread by infected mosquitoes biting humans. Unlike the mosquitoes that spread malaria, affected mosquitoes are most active during the day, especially during mid-morning and then from later afternoon to dusk.
Reducing the risk of zika virus infection*
Before travelling, seek health travel advice from your GP/ practice nurse or travel clinic ideally four to six weeks before you go. Detailed travel health advice for your destination is available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website or the Scottish travel health service fitfortravel.
To reduce your risk of infection, you should avoid being bitten by the Aedes mosquito. The most effective bit methods, which can be used during day and night time hours include:
using insect repellent which contains N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) on exposed skin. This repellent is safe to use during pregnancy. This should be applied to skin after sunscreen has been applied;
wear loose clothing that covers your arms and legs;
sleeping under a mosquito net in areas where malaria is also a risk
How zika virus infection is treated*
There is no treatment for zika virus symptoms, however drinking plenty of water and taking paracetemol may help to relieve symptoms. If you feel unwell after returning from a country that has malaria as well as active transmission of zika virus, you should seek urgent (same day) advice to help rule out a malaria diagnosis.
If you remain unwell and malaria has been shown not to be the cause, seek medical advice.
Although symptoms associated with zika are generally mild, a possible association has been observed between the unusual rise of zika cases and microcephaly cases in Brazil since 2015. Microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a small head, or the head stops growing after birth. Babies with microcephaly can have developmental difficulties.
The UK government Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has provided specific advice to travellers who are pregnant. Pregnant travellers should postpone non-essential travel to areas where active zika transmission is being reported. You should discuss your travel plans with your GP, practice nurse or travel clinic. If travel is unavoidable, you should take extra care to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. It is advisable for all travellers to take scrupulous mosquito avoidance.
Travel Risk Assessment
As with all overseas travel, arisk assessment should be completed by the traveller. This should be approved, signed and saved by their line manager.
Further travel details will be required for those travelling to countries/ destination which are considered to be of particular high risk by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and where they have specifically advised:
Against all travel to parts of the country;
Against all but essential travel;
Against all but essential travel to parts of the country; or
You believe that you will be travelling to places that may be of higher risk.
For up to date travel advice visit the following websites:
National Health Service (NHS)
UK Government Advice
UK Government Advice for Pregnant Women
World Health Organisation (WHO)
Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
*Information sourced from NHS