Friday 6 December 2019

Two confirmed cases in Ireland of Zika virus

Aeges Mosquito (inset). Composite: AP/Deposit
Aeges Mosquito (inset). Composite: AP/Deposit
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

HEALTH authorities here have confirmed the first two cases of Zika virus in Ireland.

Sources have told that the cases concern a man and a woman, and that the woman is past child-bearing age.

It is understood the two people recently returned to Ireland from overseas.

"The HSE was informed today of two unrelated cases of Zika virus infection in two adults who are currently well and fully recovered," the HSE said in a statement.

"Both individuals have a history of travel to a Zika affected country. These are the first cases of Zika virus infection confirmed in Ireland. Neither case is at risk of pregnancy.

"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.

"Infection when it occurs usually results in a mild illness that typically lasts between 2 to 7 days. The majority of people who become infected by Zika virus have no symptoms. Zika virus is spread through the bite of a mosquito that is in certain countries but which is not present in Ireland.

"While almost all cases of Zika virus are acquired via mosquito bites, one case of sexual transmission of Zika virus has been reported internationally, however the risk of sexual transmission of Zika virus is thought to be extremely low."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, with Zika now spreading "explosively" in Latin America.

Read more: Mapped: 20 countries where travellers are at risk from the Zika virus

Zika is a disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, similar to Dengue Fever, with flu-like symptoms including fever, rash and joint pain.

There are concerns that infection during pregnancy may be linked with microcephaly, a foetal abnormality in babies, although a direct link has not been confirmed.

In response to the situation, Irish tour operators including American Holidays, Travelmood and Falcon are permitting pregnant customers concerned about travel to affected countries to change their bookings.

The pandemic 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 and territories in recent days.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, said:

"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 travel.”

Read more: Zika Virus Q&A: What is it? What are the travel implications?

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