Advice For Travellers.
We’ve all heard of The Zika Virus – and with good reason. The pictures of babies in South America with Microcephaly initially looked like a scare story.
Zika is rare health amongst scare in being real.
Current recommendations supported by The Australian Government advise women “who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant” that they consider postponing travel to areas where The Zika Virus is active – view the US government produced map of active Zika virus transmission.
Most people infected with Zika Virus do not have any symptoms.
Those who do have symptoms may experience fever, headache, joint or muscle aches, a rash and sometimes conjunctivitis. These symptoms are similar to those of other “Flavi-viruses” such as Dengue Fever or Chikungunya Virus.
Zika Transmission is usually via a subspecies of mosquito called Aedes Aegypti. This breed of mosquito is occasionally found in Far North Queensland where there is concern the virus might become endemic. The highest risk areas are found in Eastern Queensland from Charters Towers, Townsville and Cairns to The Torres Strait Islands.
There were 52 cases of Zika virus detected in Australia between 2012 and 2016.
Countries in Oceana that are currently affected include Fiji, New Caledonia, PNG, Micronesia, Samoa & The Marshall Islands. Other areas of activity are found in Central & South America, The Caribbean. There are pockets of activity in some other countries.
If you think you might have been infected whilst pregnant, then you will need various tests are recommended by The Australian Health Department. The tests will develop over time. For example, direct viral testing may be performed from 3 to 14 days after exposure. Later on, after the virus has left the body, the diagnosis may be made using antibody testing on blood samples taken 2 weeks apart. Special “Arbovirus reference laboratories” in Australia have been set up to perform the tests.
The Virus may also be sexually transmitted. Men who have had Zika Virus infection and whose partner is trying to get pregnant should use barrier contraception for at least 6 months. This was increased from 3 months after it was found that the virus can survive in semen for 6 months after infection. The virus has been spread by male-to-female, male-to-male and male-to-female sexual partners.
The Australian government Zika advice is that “All males and females should avoid unprotected sex for at least 8 weeks following return from a High Risk country.”