The Zika virus is rapidly spreading and appearing in places it has never been detected before, prompting governments to issue travel warnings for the countries where the tropical fever has been detected.
There is no vaccine or cure for Zika, which was rarely detected until 2013. Little is known about the virus, which has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a medical term that refers to an abnormally small head – a serious condition that can cause lifelong developmental problems. Other neurological issues have also been reported. Symptoms include fever, red and bumpy rashes, joint pain and pinkeye – but some patients have no symptoms at all. Zika virus had previously only been associated with mild health consequences.
The virus has affected thousands across the Americas since last year and is expected to spread further across the region, where the population has not been exposed to the disease and so lacks immunity, according to the World Health Organization.
As concerns over the disease rise, here are the travel advisories being issued across the world:
Four cases have been identified in people who returned from travel in the Americas, though local transmission has not been documented in the United States. A woman in Texas contracted the disease after visiting El Salvador. Cases have also been reported in Florida, Illinois and Hawaii.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women to postpone travel to 14 Latin American countries because of the virus.
“Until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing,” the CDC said.
The US territory of Puerto Rico, which reported its first case of Zika in December, is to announce this week that about 18 cases have been confirmed there, health secretary Ana Rius said. She said no pregnant women were included in the cases.
Canada’s government has said the risk is low for its citizens, though there is an “ongoing risk” for people who travel to areas where the virus is common.
Mosquitoes that transmit the virus are not present in Canada and it is one of two places in the Americas that is not expected to experience an outbreak of the disease. The other is Chile.
As in other countries, Canada’s PublicHealth Agency has recommended that women who are pregnant or are considering getting pregnant should contact their healthcare provider if they are planning to travel to one of the affected areas. “If travel cannot be postponed, then strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed to protect themselves against bites,” the agency said.
There are no travel restrictions, but the agency released a travel health noticeearlier this month giving information and advice about the virus.
Three Britons contracted the disease after traveling to the Americas, said Public Health England last week.
The National Travel Health Network and Centre said pregnant women should “consider avoiding travel” to areas with outbreaks. And the foreign office advised people to search its site to get specific information about what to do if you plan to travel to an affected country.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said there is no evidence of the virus being acquired in a member state and that imported cases are “rare”.
The agency recommended last week that public health agencies in member states should expand efforts to educate health workers, especially obstetricians, pediatricians and neurologists, about the disease. It also recommended that member state health agencies advise pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant to discuss their travel with doctors.
The country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Monday advised pregnant women to reconsider travel to areas where the virus has been detected. Zika has not been detected in Australia, though disease control experts there say it is in a good position to respond to an outbreak because of how it has managed dengue fever cases in the past.