Minister Flanagan publishes new Travel Advice for 20 countries in response to Zika Virus Outbreak28 January 2016
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Charlie Flanagan TD, has today (Thursday) advised Irish citizens to be aware of the risks of Zika Virus and to take the appropriate precautions if visiting Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Minister Flanagan said:
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued travel advisories for 20 countries in response to the ongoing Zika Virus outbreak. While the risk is low in most cases I would particularly urge pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant to consider postponing their travel to affected areas and to consult with their healthcare provider before they travel.”
The Minister continued:
“My Department remains in close contact with the HSE and our Missions in the Americas in relation to this outbreak and will continue to review our travel advice as appropriate. In the meantime, those who intend to travel to Central and South America should ensure they take the proper precautions against mosquito bites and secure the necessary vaccinations for this type of environment.
“Those with concerns can review the advice of the HSE at http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/Zika/ for the latest updates and guidance from Irish health professionals.”
28 January 2016
Notes for Editors
- Travel advice is available at www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/ and is made public to help Irish citizens to make informed decisions about overseas travel.
- The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has so far issued advisories for: Barbados; Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; El Salvador; Honduras; Martinique; Mexico; Panama; Paraguay; Suriname; USA (Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands); and Venezuela. Not all countries are associated with the same level of risk and are categorised as “an increasing or widespread transmission” of the disease, or “sporadic transmission following recent introduction.”
- The European Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (ECDC) issued an updated risk assessment on 20 January 2016 about the Zika virus disease epidemic in the Americas (Central and South America and the Caribbean). It describes the potential association between Zika infection and microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). It also provides information and advice for travellers to the affected areas.
- The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued its first travel advisory regarding the Zika Virus on 1 December 2015, alerting citizens to the outbreak in Brazil.
- Zika virus disease is caused by an RNA virus transmitted to humans by Aedes mosquitoes, especially by the Aedes aegypti species. Up to eighty per cent of infections are asymptomatic. Symptomatic infections are characterised by a self-limiting febrile illness of 4–7 days duration accompanied by maculopapular rash, arthralgia, conjunctivitis, myalgia and headache. Zika virus has not been noted to cause death in the past, nor has it been linked to intrauterine infections and congenital CNS anomalies. Nor has Zika virus infection been linked to GBS before 2014 when a possible association between Zika virus infection and GBS was reported during an outbreak in French Polynesia. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus infections nor is specific anti-viral treatment available.
- Although a causal association between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and adverse pregnancy outcomes has not been confirmed, the concern over a possible causal link has prompted public health authorities to issue travel advice for the affected areas. While the evidence regarding a causal link between Zika virus infections during pregnancy and congenital CNS malformations is growing, the available information is not yet sufficient to confirm it.
- Travellers to affected areas should take individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites, and pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant, and who plan to travel to the areas experiencing transmission of Zika virus, should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare providers and consider postponing their travel to affected areas, especially to areas with increasing or widespread transmission.
- Personal protection measures to avoid mosquito bites should include:
- Using mosquito repellents in accordance with the instructions indicated on the product label. DEET*-based repellent use is not recommended in children under three months of age.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity.
- Using mosquito nets is essential if accommodation is not adequately screened or air-conditioned.
- Travellers showing symptoms compatible with dengue, chikungunya or Zika virus disease within three weeks after returning from an affected area should contact their healthcare provider and mention their travel. Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should mention their travel during antenatal visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately.