A Zika virus outbreak could happen in Europe this summer, according to the World Health Organisation.
The mosquito-borne disease may spread into Europe as the weather gets warmer, health officials said on Wednesday, after spreading through much of South America.
In its first assessment of the threat Zika poses to the region, the World Health Organization’s European office said the overall risk was small to moderate.
It is highest in areas where Aedes mosquitoes thrive, in particular on the island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea.
‘There is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European Region and … this risk varies from country to country, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.
‘We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak.’
In the past year Brazil has reported thousands of cases of microcephaly – a condition which sees infants born with abnormally small heads.
How many cases are there of Zika virus around the world?
The virus was first identified in humans in the 1950s. From 1951 through 1981, evidence of human Zika virus infection was reported from African countries and in parts of Asia.
In 2007, the first major outbreak of Zika virus occurred in Micronesia (Yap island) in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. This was the first time that Zika virus was detected outside of Africa and Asia.
Between 2013 and 2015, several significant outbreaks were noted on islands and archipelagos from the Pacific region. This included a large outbreak in French Polynesia.
In early 2015, Zika virus emerged in South America with widespread outbreaks reported in Brazil and Colombia.
How does Canada monitor Zika virus?
The National Microbiology Laboratory is able to detect the virus and offers testing support to provinces and territories.
As part of their West Nile virus surveillance programs, several provinces and territories conduct mosquito surveillance activities.
In the future, consideration could be given to enhancing mosquito surveillance to detect an incursion of new mosquito species into Canada. This would include those species responsible for Zika virus transmission.
Symptoms of Zika virus infection
arthralgia, notably of small joints of hands and feet, with possible swollen joints
headache, retro-ocular headaches
cutaneous maculopapular rash
Zika virus infection usually causes a mild disease. However, as Zika infection may cause a rash that could be confused with diseases such as measles or dengue, these serious diseases do need to be ruled out. Diagnosis of Zika will first and foremost be based on symptoms, travel history and exclusion of other diseases including measles, rubella and dengue.
The incubation period is typically 3–12 days. There is no specific therapy for Zika virus infection and acute symptoms typically resolve within 4–7 days. Use paracetamol for pain and fever if needed. Until dengue can be ruled out do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, given the risk of bleeding.