Wednesday 24 May 2017

Ireland puts travel warning on 20 countries at risk of virus

Dr Vanessa Van Der Linden, the neuro-pediatrician who first recognised the microcephaly crisis in Brazil, examines a
two-month-old baby with the condition in Recife. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Dr Vanessa Van Der Linden, the neuro-pediatrician who first recognised the microcephaly crisis in Brazil, examines a two-month-old baby with the condition in Recife. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Pregnant women or those intending to get pregnant have been advised by the Irish Government to consider postponing travel to areas in Central South America and the Caribbean due to the increased risks of the Zika virus.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said travel advisories had been put in place for 20 countries in response to the outbreak.

However, he added that the risk of contracting the virus remained low.

He said: "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."

Dr Darina O' Flanagan, head of the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre said it did not pose any threat of being passed on in Ireland because it was spread by mosquitos.

This is why it does not merit the public health measures which had to be put in place during the Ebola virus threat in 2014.

"This is one time we can be glad of our cold weather, "she added.

However. she said there had been very rare cases of sexual transmission or through blood donation.

"That is not going to happen because the blood transfusion board have deferrals for people who have been to a tropical country."

She said there is a chance of somebody being infected in a tropical country and coming back, showing no symptoms.

"There is an extremely low possibility that it can be passed through sex. There have been a couple of isolated cases reported. The guidance is if you have returned from an infected country it is wise to use condoms for at least a month.

"If you have had symptoms like rash or fever you should use condoms for six months. That guidance from England is part of a precautionary approach is not necessarily in the WHO guidance."

She added: "We have made sure that clinicians and travel health clinics are aware of the signs and symptoms. Testing is available at the national virus reference laboratory here .

"We have also sent out information to obstetricians, paediatricians and neurologists."

Guidance has also been issued to fertility clinics to consider deferral of semen donors for 28 days.

Pregnant women should postpone travel to these countries where possible.

There is a list of affected countries on the Hpsc.ie website and on the Department of Foreign Affairs website .

"There are new countries coming in practically every day now. Every time we are informed of a new country we inform the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"It is not like Ebola, where if someone was infected and went into an emergency department, there was a risk of spread."

The Zika virus can be diagnosed with a blood test. There is no vaccine for protection.

The advice is to drink plenty of water and take paracetamol to help relieve symptoms.

The use of aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen is not recommended, as there is a potential risk they could trigger excessive bleeding.

Irish Independent

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