When a global health threat emerges – update on the Zika virus
In the beginning of February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the Zika virus was spreading explosively and declared the situation a global threat due to the many infected in South America. The situation created a lot of attention and worried travellers contacted their local Foreign Ministries, insurance companies and alarm centres to get advice on how to act.
In continuation hereof, SOS International met with the International Operative Staff, a national, inter-agency committee chaired by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that can be convened at short notice when situations like these emerge. The committee includes health authorities, representatives from the travel and insurance industry and the alarm centres.
The meeting contributes to keeping all stakeholders updated and to ensure that identical messages and recommendations are send to the public based on the health authorities’ instructions.
What is status?
The threat in the Nordic countries was and still is minimal since the disease carrying mosquito does not exist in this region and the disease cannot be transmitted from human to human.
SOS International’s Medical Director Mikael Fotopoulos elaborates: “The Zika virus has been linked - with a high probability - to a risk of malformations in newborn babies. The virus is endemic in South America. SOS International recommends that pregnant women and women who plan to be pregnant, consult with a doctor and their insurance agency before travelling in South America.”
The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites:
- Use insect repellent
- Wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible;
- Using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows
- Sleep under mosquito nets.
It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold even small amounts of water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.
The symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest and plenty of water. If symptoms worsen, people should seek medical advice.
Female travellers should seek personal advice from a doctor before travelling to South America in case they are or may be pregnant.
Facts about the Zika virus
- Zika virus cannot be transmitted from human to human. The only exception being sexually transmitted via mens sperm (up to 90 days)
- Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
- There is still no vaccine or cure for Zika virus.
- People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever and skin rash. Others may also get conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and feel tired.
- The symptoms usually finish in 2 to 7 days.