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The Zika Virus: What you need to know

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The Zika Virus: What you need to know

What is the Zika Virus?

Zika is a disease caused by a virus which originated and is transmitted via the Aedes mosquito. Aedes is native to subtropical zones, but now have populations in almost all continents globally.

Aedes Mosquito

Symptoms of Zika include a skin rash, fever, and also conjunctivitis (inflammation and itchiness of the eye). Most sufferers experience a short, mild bout of illness. In most cases, it is important to realise that Zika is not dangerous; some cases are entirely symptomless; the primary risk is for pregnant mothers as it can cause birth defects, specifically microcephaly.

Brazil, the country listed as the worst affected by the recent pandemic, is currently investigating 3,670 cases of microcephaly which are suspected to be a result of Zika.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the disease a global public health emergency, according to the BBC.

Zika at-a-glance

How is the Zika Virus transmitted?

The primary means for the transmission of Zika is through mosquitoes. Very recent news has suggested that Zika may be transferable through sexual contact. On 3 rd Feb 2016, a patient in Dallas, Texas, was suspected to have been infected with the virus via sexual contact, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control, US).

Is the virus established in Europe?

There have been two cases to date recorded in the ROI, although both patients are now fully recovered and both had previously travelled to a Zika-affected country.

The concern expressed by the WHO is that as Europe approaches Spring and Summer and temperatures warm, the potential for the Aedes mosquito to extend into the continent is increased. Lifesystems advocate a preventative approach and advise the public to be alert to the possibility of Zika spreading into the Northern Hemisphere.

How do I best protect myself from infection?

There is currently no vaccine available for Zika.

The best measure is to protect yourself from mosquito bites, and, in light of recent developments, avoid sexual contact with anyone who has been in a Zika-struck country in the last 28 days.

It is yet to be established whether sexual contact is a definite vector of Zika, but caution is recommended.

If you are susceptible to mosquito bites and/or live in an area at risk of Zika, please ensure you take the appropriate measures to protect yourself from contraction, particularly if you are at any stage of pregnancy. The main methods of prevention are to avoid or postpone, if possible, visits to countries where Zika has been established; invest in a reliable and high-quality mosquito net and mosquito killer; and to make sure you have an adequate stock of insect repellent. Prevention of bites is the best form of protection ( as recommended by the WHO).

A Which! Study in 2012 found that the Lifesystems DEET repellent was 100% effective against biting insects for up to 10 hours.

The difficulty lies in which repellent is safe to use if you are pregnant? General healthcare advice is that you should avoid the use of DEET-containing repellents if you are expecting. The safest and most effective option is to use a non-DEET repellent. Lifesystems Expedition Sensitive is a Saltidin based repellent, and is recommended for children above 2 and pregnant women.

Apply repellent to all exposed skin; areas where blood flow is particularly close to the surface, for example ankles, neck, and wrists, are particular hotspots for bites. Make sure to reapply every 6 hours for optimum protection.

What other options do I have?

Natural repellents, mosquito killing devices and mosquito coils are other effective means of discouraging mosquitoes.

Where can I find more information?

Useful links for keeping up to date on the most recent news on Zika are listed below:

In the UK you will be unable to donate blood if returning from a Zika-struck country for 28 days after your return.

For more information on Lifesystems repellents, visit our advisory blog.

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