The latest Zika virus advice for March
on 25 January 2016
The Zika virus is continuing to spread across the Americas and the first cases have been reported in Europe. The Zika virus outbreak has now been declared a "public health emergency of international concern" by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus, which isn't harmful in most cases. However, it may be harmful for pregnancies, as it has been potentially linked to birth defects, specifically microcephaly (a smaller head than expected which can be due to abnormal brain development).
Because of this, Public Health England (PHE) is advising women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and who live in, or will travel to areas where any mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika are known to occur, should consider avoiding travel to an area where active Zika transmission is being reported. PHE and The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has a list of affected countries.
If travel is unavoidable, or they live in an area where active Zika transmission is being reported, pregnant women should take scrupulous measures to avoid mosquito bites during both daytime and night time hours (but especially during mid-morning and late afternoon to dusk, when the mosquito is most active). Insect repellents with concentrations of DEET up to 50% are safe for pregnant women.
The RCM is asking women who are pregnant, and those trying to conceive, who have recently returned to the UK from countries with an active Zika transmission to inform their GP, midwife or obstetrician that they may have been exposed to the Zika virus, even if they do not have any symptoms (mild symptoms include rash, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain).
Joint guidance for midwives, obstetricians and other health professionals on Zika is available here, with a step by step guide here. This guidance covers how to assess pregnant women with a history of travel during pregnancy to areas with active Zika virus transmission, including taking a detailed travel history and referral to specialist fetal medicine service if required.
- Please visit Public Health England’s Zika pages for the latest comprehensive information on Zika, updated regularly.
- Advice for women on Zika is also available on the NHS Choices website.
- The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has advised that the risk for transmission of Zika virus infections within the EU is extremely low during winter season as the climatic conditions are not suitable for the activity of the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos which carry the Zika virus.
- The National Travel and Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) provide information on the Zika virus and the implications for pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and their partners.