Two cases of Zika virus confirmed in Ireland as HSE issues travel warning
Health authorities were on alert last night after the first cases of the dreaded Zika virus were detected in a man and woman in Ireland.
The explosive spread of the virus, which is linked to birth defects and is now at the centre of a public health crisis in South and Central America, has led the World Health Organisation to declare an international emergency.
However, the HSE stressed last night both people are currently well and fully recovered.
Both are under medical supervision - but the virus does not pose a danger of birth defects to the woman as she is not pregnant and is in an older age group.
They tested positive in blood tests after they went to their doctors as a precaution after feeling unwell with possible symptoms of the infection, which is mostly caught from mosquitoes.
It is not harmful in most cases, but it poses a danger to pregnant women and has been linked to microcephaly, which causes children to be born with an abnormally small head.
It cannot usually be passed on from person to person, although it may be transmitted sexually in rare cases.
The HSE said that both individuals have a history of travel to Zika-affected countries.
"The finding of Zika cases in Ireland is not an unexpected event as many other European countries have reported cases as a result of travel to affected areas. Currently, outbreaks of Zika virus are occurring in some countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands," said the HSE.
"Infection, when it occurs usually results in a mild illness that typically lasts between two to seven days. The majority of people who become infected by Zika virus have no symptoms."
Zika virus is spread through the bite of the Aedes mosquito, which currently poses no danger in this country.
The HSE said that while almost all cases of Zika virus are acquired via mosquito bites, one case of sexual transmission of Zika virus has been reported internationally.
The advice is that if someone becomes ill within two weeks of returning to Ireland from an affected area, they should contact their doctor for assessment.
The virus has thrust long-haul and honeymoon destinations like Mexico and the Dominican Republic into the spotlight, with the Department of Foreign Affairs changing its travel advice for 32 countries in recent days. Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan reminded Irish citizens to take appropriate precautions if travelling to affected countries.