Zika Virus is spread by infected mosquitoes currently spreading across the Americas. It is spread by predominantly daytime infected mosquitoes (Aedes mosquitoes). In adults it causes a mild illness and many are unaware that they have had it. It is estimated that only 1 in 4 adults infected will develop any symptoms.
In adults, the Zika Virus causes a mild self-limiting illness with the commonest symptoms being slight fever and rash. It can also cause conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pains, general malaise beginning 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito and lasting up to 7 days.
Zika virus in pregnant women can spread to the developing child and is suspected of causing a brain defect called microcephaly (underdevelopment of the brain) and congenital malformations. The risk of this appears to be greater in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a developing area of research and more information will come out as time goes on.
There is no treatment or vaccination for Zika Virus. Work on producing a vaccine is being undertaken.
Public Health England advises that pregnant women, in any trimester, should consider avoiding travel to an area where an active Zika virus outbreak is reported. If travel is unavoidable, or they live in areas where an active Zika virus outbreak is being reported, they should take scrupulous insect bite avoidance measures, during the day and night. They should inform their obstetrician or midwife if they have recently travelled to a country where Zika virus is known to occur, for increased monitoring.
Women planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess the risk of infection with Zika virus and receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures.
Everyone, including pregnant women and women of childbearing age, should avoid exposure to mosquito bites:
- Keep the skin covered by wearing long sleeves, trousers and a hat
- Use mosquito repellent , following instructions on the label
- During sleep (day or night), protect yourself with insecticide-treated mosquito netting
- Keep screens, doors and windows closed.
- Possible areas of mosquito breeding sites should be removed eg: empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres.