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Zika virus: what you need to know

Three UK travellers have been diagnosed with Zika, a mosquito-borne infection caused by Zika virus (ZIKV), while travelling in Colombia, Suriname and Guyana, Public Health England confirmed last week.

The majority of people infected don't have symptoms, but potential symptoms are similar to dengue and include a low-grade fever, joint pain, rash, muscle pain, and eye pain. 

ZIKV is not spread from person-to-person, and the three UK travellers who acquired ZIKV abroad can't pass their infection on to other people in the UK. The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito (pictured).

Consider ZIKV for patients returning from:

·      South and Central America

·      The Caribbean

·      Africa

·      South and South East Asia

·      The Pacific region

There is no vaccine or drug to prevent the virus, but predominantly bites occur during the day and around dawn and dusk, so anyone travelling to the above regions should use a good repellent both day and night.

Travellers who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant who will travel to the areas above should consider avoiding travel to areas where an active ZIKV outbreak is being reported.

Deaths and serious complications from Zika are uncommon, but recent increases in congenital anomalies, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and other neurological and autoimmune syndromes are being reported in areas where ZIKV outbreaks have occurred.

“When the mosquito feeds on the blood of a person infected with ZIKV, the virus enters and multiplies within the mosquito. After about 2 weeks, the mosquito can transmit the virus to another human. After an infected mosquito bites a human, the first symptoms of Zika can develop in 3 to 12 days but it can be shorter or longer in some people,” PHE guidance stated.