The latest news about the current Zika virus outbreak in the Americas is a warning for expectant mothers to reconsider their travel plans. The foreign office Travel Health Pro website is advising pregnant women to avoid travel to areas where Zika virus outbreaks are ongoing, due to the possible link to infant abnormalities.
On 1st February the World Health Organisation declared the current outbreak a global emergency, and has said that the virus is spreading so quickly that four million people could be infected by the end of the year.
New advice has been issued by NHS UK saying that women who were either pregnant when they travelled or who conceived within a fortnight of returning from an affected area should see their GP even if they are feeling perfectly well, and that they should have an ultrasound to measure the baby's growth and brain development.
The virus has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains and has been spreading on a massive scale in the Americas. There are fears that it could become a pandemic and some countries have declared a state of emergency and advised women to delay pregnancy whilst the oubreak is ongoing.
- Click here for current travel advice for pregnant women due to the Zika Virus outbreak
- Click here for current NHS advice on the Zika Virus, and new guidleines for expectant mothers.
The current outbreak began in Brazil last year, but has since been reported in Barbados, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela. Three Britons have also been confirmed as contracting the virus after foreign travel to affected areas.
Although the virus is mild in adults there is no treatment, no vaccine and no cure. However the main concern is the damage it may do to unborn children if their mother contracts the virus. It has been linked to case of infant microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head as their brain has not developed properly. The severity varies, but it can be fatal if the brain is so underdeveloped that it cannot regulate the functions vital to life. Children that do survive can face intellectual disability and development delays.
If travel to the affected areas is unavoidable then the advice is to take precautions against mosquito bites as that is how the disease is spread. The situation is developing rapidly as more cases are being identified and the countries involved in the outbreak increases.