The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advice on the Zika virus outbreak in the Caribbean, Central and South America emphasises that there are variations between countries.
The travel advice says: “The Zika virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes and in recent weeks this mosquito-borne virus has rapidly spread in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Although not scientifically proven, World Health Organisation (WHO) experts strongly suspect that the virus is linked to cases of birth defects.
“It is important to note that not all countries are associated with the same level of risk: there are variations between those with ‘an increasing or widespread transmission’ of the disease and those characterised by ‘sporadic transmission following recent introduction’.
“An up-to-date list of affected countries and territories, along with further information, is available on the website of the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). The HPSC is the relevant expert body with competence in this area and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade bases its travel advice on their recommendations.
“Irish citizens traveling to, or living in, affected areas should keep themselves informed as the situation is dynamic and subject to rapid change. Information is available on the websites of the HPSC, WHO and the European Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (ECDC).
Pregnant women, those trying to become pregnant
“There are reports of an increase in the incidence of microcephaly – abnormal smallness of the head and incomplete brain development – among newborns in areas where the Zika virus was known to be in circulation. It is essential that pregnant women, or those considering becoming pregnant, discuss any travel plans to affected areas in advance with their healthcare provider. Based on guidance from Irish public health experts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade strongly recommends that pregnant women consider postponing their travel to affected areas, and in particular to areas classified as having an increasing or widespread transmission of the Zika virus.
“Those with concerns should review the HPSC website for the latest updates. Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should provide details of their travel abroad during antenatal visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately.
Men returning from Zika affected area
“As the Zika virus can be passed in a man’s semen, men returning from a Zika-affected area who do not have any symptoms of Zika are advised to practice safe sex (by wearing a condom) for one month after return.
“Men who have developed symptoms that could be due to Zika virus infection (fever, headache, aches, pains, rash, itchy eyes) are advised to practice safe sex (by wearing a condom) for six months after return. This is precautionary advice that may be revised as more information becomes available.”