As of Feb 2016, 25 countries have been identified worldwide with active Zika virus transmission, and the disease continues to spread. Zika virus transmission is through the bite of an infected mosquito, most commonly Aedes aegypti. Of note, in north Queensland and parts of central Queensland the Aedes vector is known to be present. Thankfully, there is no evidence local (Victorian) mosquitoes can transmit the infection between people. The main issue in Melbourne is therefore travel.
In most cases Zika virus infection does not cause symptoms. Only 1 in 5 people feel sick, and usually only for a few days. Occasionally Zika infection may cause rash, fever, severe headache, and pain (muscle /joint / bone). The illness is rarely severe, and hospitalisation is not required. However, initial information suggests some possible serious consequences from being infected by the virus:
- Zika virus infection in pregnancy has been associated with microcephaly.
- Increased risk of neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
- Detailed travel advice (including a list of affected countries) is available on the Smartraveller website.
- Pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should consider postponing travel to any country / region with active Zika virus transmission.
- All travellers should follow recommendations to avoid mosquito bites when travelling in countries / regions where there is a risk of any mosquito-borne disease.
- People experiencing a Zika virus like infection within two weeks of travel to an affected country / region should seek medical advice. Your doctor will consider testing for Zika virus in addition to other more common causes of fever in travellers (eg malaria and dengue).
- Pregnant women who are well, but have returned from an affected country / region should seek medical advice. Your doctor may test for Zika virus exposure.
- It has been found that Zika virus infection can also be sexually transmitted by people with an active infection.
Further information for health practitioners: