Protection against Zika will one-day be a worldwide problem. Following reports of Zika virus infection in Latin America and the Caribbean, the World Health Organisation has stated that it believes that Zika virus carrying mosquitoes (Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus) will one day reach all counties in the western hemisphere apart from Chile and Canada, which are thought to be protected by their high elevations and cold climates.
Protection against Zika in the UK is not an issue
At this point in time there is no danger from infected mosquitoes reaching us here in the UK; consequently, there is no risk of being infected with the virus from a mosquito bite.
The risk of a Zika virus infection through sexual activity
Although the risk of being infected through sexual transmission is extremely low, it is possible. The first case reported to date is that of a non-traveller living in Dallas, Texas, USA, and who was infected in February 2016.
It means that in order to minimise the risk and to maximise protection against Zika, condoms should be worn during sexual activity. It should be emphasised however, that the risk of being infected with the Zika virus here in the UK, through sexual activity, is almost non-existent, even if you have a partner who has been to, or comes from, countries where the Zika virus is prevalent.
The symptoms of a Zika virus infection in adults
For the majority of people, a Zika virus infection produces only mild symptoms which can include: fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes. However, in very rare instances it can be fatal.
The Zika virus and Microcephaly in unborn babies
The real danger is for pregnant women, and women intending to become pregnant in the near future, if they are travelling to high risk countries. A Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes babies to be born with Microcephaly (abnormally small heads, linked to incomplete brain development). It has also been reported that some babies have been born with normal size heads, but with brain development problems.
Mosquito bite protection
If you are pregnant or intending to become pregnant and you are due to travel to high risk areas, and you are concerned about protection against Zika, the only practical solution (as there is no effective vaccine) is one of bite prevention. The measures you should take include:
- Take an ample supply of mosquito repellent with you. Look for brands where the DEET ingredient is at least 40%.
- Pack plenty of long legged trousers and long sleeved shirts to minimise the amount of skin you expose.
- Ensure your hotel/lodgings can supply you with mosquito netting, or take your own.
- Ensure that items of clothing and netting are either pre-treated with permethrin (a mosquito repellent), or buy your own and treat the appropriate items yourself.
The mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are active during daylight hours as well as during the night, so be sure to take preventative measures around the clock.
Find out more about Zika from the travel clinic Broadgate GP Clinic London Wall
For more information about protection against Zika, and the high risk countries, visit the travel clinic at Broadgate GP Clinic London Wall. You can also buy mosquito repellent products over the counter at our in-house pharmacy.