UK Travelers Avoided the Zika Virus

Zika is a health risk for women and fetuses when traveling to Zika outbreak countries
lost traveling women
Europe (Zika News)

A new study found the number and risk of Congenital Zika virus infections for international travelers returning to England and Wales from Zika-affected countries were very small.

Published on September 4, 2019, this study reported 16 women were diagnosed with the Zika virus (ZIKV) during pregnancy in the UK during 2016. 

Among the offspring of these women, there was laboratory evidence of Zika infection in only 1 child.

This is very good news since in 2015 and 2016, around 980,000 million UK women of childbearing age traveled to countries affected by the ZIKV outbreaks.  

Furthermore, Public Health England (PHE) issued ‘travel advice for pregnant women or those planning pregnancy’ which was initially published in January 2016.

This indicates these 980,000 UK women travelers did not take incremental actions to protect themselves from the Zika virus.

To keep UK international travelers updated, PHE regularly reviews new evidence and has updated its ZIKV guidance.

In areas where recent outbreaks have been previously reported, re-introduction of ZIKV or endemic transmission has occurred, pregnant women are advised to consider postponing non-essential travel until after the pregnancy.

Consistent use of effective contraception and condoms for vaginal, anal and oral sex during and after travel. 

These measures should be used even in the absence of symptoms while traveling and if:

  • Both partners travelled to “risk” areas, for 3 months (previously 6 months) after the return or after last possible ZIKV exposure,
  • Male traveler only travelled to “risk” areas, for 3 months (previously 6 months) after the return or after last possible ZIKV exposure,
  • Female traveler only travelled to “risk” areas, for 2 months after the return or after last possible ZIKV exposure.

This PHE advice published in February 2019 does not apply to areas considered to be at “very low risk” of ZIKV.

Since the peak of the Zika epidemic in 2016, reported infections have continuously decreased in the majority of countries, and in some, virus transmission has been interrupted.

In 2018, PHE reported 4 travel-associated cases were diagnosed. The majority of Zika cases in the UK have traveled to the Caribbean and South and Central America.

During 2019, the majority of Zika infections reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been classified as ‘travel-related.’

In the USA, as of September 7, 2019, the states of Florida (32), California (25), Idaho (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (2), New York (1), and Utah (1) have reported a total of 63 travel-related Zika cases during 2019.

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The Zika virus is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), says the CDC.

Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.

A recent study found pregnant women who become infected with Zika early in pregnancy were 17 times more likely to deliver a baby suffering from Microcephaly, and other negative health conditions.

Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. Microcephaly can be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, and often have developmental issues.

To alert international travelers prior to planning a trip abroad, the CDC publishes a ‘map’ of countries reporting Zika cases.

Furthermore, since there is not a preventive vaccine available today, the CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women should not travel to areas with an ongoing Zika outbreak.

News published by Zika News