The Zika Virus

You cannot have missed the media coverage of the Zika virus outbreak in latin America along with the very disturbing news that this infection appears to cause birth defects.

There appears to be a link between maternal infection with Zika and babies suffering from microcephaly. Microcephaly literally means “small head” and the small head in these cases is due to abnormalities in brain development. This means that babies with microcephaly have a very high likelihood of suffering significant developmental delay. The earlier in pregnancy the infection occurs, the greater the likelihood of microcephaly occurring.

Zika virus infection appears to cause no symptoms so people are not aware they have caught it. There is no vaccine for the virus.

Zika virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This mosquito is found in latin America (ie all of America south of the USA and the Caribbean), the Pacific Islands and North Queensland. I know that Health Authorities in Australia are being very reassuring we need to consider the possibility that this mosquito – and the Zika virus – may become more prevalent in Australia.

My strong advice is for pregnant women – or those even considering pregnancy – NOT to travel to countries in which there is a Zika virus outbreak. Currently that means the entirety of latin America, the Caribbean and some Pacific Islands including Samoa and Tonga although I expect that list to increase with time.

Whenever you are in the tropics be meticulous about mosquitoes – use repellent (yes, it’s safe), long sleeves if possible, insect screens or nets.

So while Peter Allen said “When my baby smiles at me I go to Rio” right now I wouldn’t.