Zika virus: should I travel if I'm pregnant?

Written by: Jacob Rosenholm Picture: ECDC

Many people call us and ask if it is safe to travel to countries where there have been reports of outbreaks of Zika virus, so we have made a small compilation. The situation and our knowledge of it are constantly changing so what we write here can change as we know more.

Zika virus
Belongs to the genus flavivirus, which also includes Yellow Fever and Dengue. Zika virus in humans has been known since 1952 and has since been found in smaller outbreaks both in Africa, Asia and South America.
Infects do this mainly via different types of mosquitoes, especially day-active species, but it is speculated that it can also be transmitted through sexual contact and through blood.

Symptoms and treatment
The incubation period is typically 3-12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. 60-80% of those infected have no symptoms at all. The infection often has mild symptoms with fever, rash, joint and muscle aches and eye inflammation. The symptoms often last a few days to a week.
Outbreaks in Brazil and Micronesia have seen an increased number of neurological symptoms such as Guillain-Barré, a type of paralysis, but the link is not yet clearly proven.
There are no vaccines or preventive medicines against the Zika virus. The treatment is the same as for flu: rest and fluid.  You should be careful with painkillers other than Paracetamol, as the symptoms initially equal what you see in Dengue fever and many painkillers increase the propensity for bleeding.
If you are in an affected area, you should above all protect yourself from mosquito bites: covering clothes, mosquito repellent and mosquito nets for doors and windows.

Pregnant women and Zika
The current outbreak has hit the news because there are reports of a contemporary increase in birth defects, especially microcephaly, which means that the baby is born with a smaller head and brain a normal one.  There is no reliable evidence that the sharp increase in microcephaly seen in Brazil, for example, is clearly linked to the Zika virus. This is now being tried to clarify.

What is recommended?
The Swedish Public Health Agency, the European Agency ecdc and the American equivalent CDC advise caution and that pregnant women should consider changing their travel plans to affected areas. Anyone who may have an increased risk such as the elderly, pregnant women or women who intend to become pregnant should consult with a doctor about the individual case.

Sources: All collected at the Swedish and European Public Health Authorities.

Read more and follow the development at
Public Health Agency of Sweden



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