Situation Report - Zika virus worldwide

Between January 2007 and February 2016, a total of 48 countries and territories reported transmission of Zika virus through contact with locally infected mosquitos. The largest outbreaks were in French Polynesia (about 35,000 cases) and more recently in several countries in the Americas (28 countries/territories). The largest outbreaks so far have been reported in Brazil and Colombia. St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean is the latest country to report an infected person.

Studies are underway to provide scientific evidence that infection with the Zika virus during early pregnancy will result in microcephaly (small brain) in newborns. Microcephaly has so far been reported only from Brazil and French Polynesia.

Other countries have reported an apparent increase in the number of people diagnosed with Guillan-Barré Syndrome, presumably related to prior infection with the Zika virus. Increases in this Syndrome have been reported by Brazil, French Polynesia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, Suriname Puerto Rico and Martinique.

Visit our Health Library for more information on exposure to and the prevention of Zika Fever.

Advice For Travellers

As the virus spreads to local mosquitoes, the risk of exposure for the general traveller in any particular location is difficult to estimate since so many infected people have no symptoms and are not recorded officially.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for this infection. Travellers can minimize the risk of exposure by taking all necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Since infection with this virus usually causes no symptoms or a rather mild illness similar to flu, there may be many infected people in the community.

There is growing scientific evidence that this virus may be the cause of microcephaly (small brain) in newborn infants. As a precautionary measure, women who are pregnant in their first trimester should consider postponing travel to countries where this virus is spreading or, at a minimum, take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Guillain–Barré syndrome is relatively rare condition characterized by the rapid-onset of a neurological illness with muscle weakness that may develop over half a day to four weeks and that may affect the breathing muscles.

At present, the association between Zika virus and this syndrome has not been confirmed by further scientific evidence. If neurological symptoms appear after visiting areas where Zika virus is present, travellers should consult their physician immediately.

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