Should you be concerned about Zika?

Until the confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Australia, people were not too concerned about the disease. If you’re planning to travel overseas, here’s what you need to know.

How is the disease transmitted?

The disease is caused by a virus that is spread via a bite from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is the same type of bug that is responsible for the transmittal of dengue and yellow fever. These mosquitos are mainly found in tropical regions, such as Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific. 

What are the symptoms?

About two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, a person may experience a mild fever, headache, skin rash, muscle and joint pain, general feeling of illness, and conjunctivitis.

Pregnant women can transmit the disease to their unborn babies and there have been reports of birth defects in such cases – specifically where the baby is born with an unnaturally small head and brain. Such cases have mainly been reported in Brazil.

There has also been a link to Guillain-Barre syndrome, where sufferers experience a temporary but sometimes long-term paralysis.

Can Zika be treated?

There is no treatment for the virus itself, with rest recommended for sufferers. Traditional medicines for fever and pain relief can be taken, but if the symptoms are severe, a medical professional should be consulted. 

Is there a vaccine?

There is currently no vaccine for the virus. If you are travelling to countries that are associated with the virus, you should sleep under mosquito nets and steer clear of mosquito breeding areas. You should also take the usual precautions, such as repellents that contain DEET or other deterrents that work for you. 

Find out the most up to date travel advice on the Zika Virus at Smarttraveller.gov.au

Written by Debbie McTaggart



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