Zika Virus Update – 15th February 2016

Travel Clinic Health News

Travel health update for 15th February 2016 including Zika Virus Update, Typhoid Outbreak in Zimbabwe, Rabies Deaths in Peru and Meningitis Outbreak in Nigeria.

Zika Virus Update

The Zika Virus continues to be a significant health issue across South America, particularly in Brazil where current estimates range between 1.5 and 4 million people having been infected with the disease. For most people infected, Zika Virus results in a fairly mild illness, however it has been found to cause birth defects following being contracted by pregnant women. There is currently no vaccination or medication for the prevention of Zika Virus. Travellers are advised to use measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by covering up skin with long sleeves and trousers as well as the liberal use of DEET insect repellent. Pregnant women and women considering conceiving may consider postponing their travel to areas affected with the Zika Virus and should seek advice from a healthcare professional prior to travel.

Dengue Fever, Brazil

Following on from the Zika Virus, authorities in Brazil are reporting an alarming increase in the number of or cases of Dengue Fever being reported across the country, with a more than 50% increase in the numbers reported for the same time last year. Authorities estimate that there have been over 75,000 cases of Dengue across Brazil in the first three weeks of January of 2016. The increase in reported cases in particularly alarming as it is spread by the same spices of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, that caries the both the Zika Virus and Chikungunya Fever.  Dengue Fever is spread by mosquitoes that bite mainly during the daytime and causes severe headaches, joint and muscle pains. Travellers can reduce the risk of contracting Dengue and other mosquito borne diseases by using insect repellent such as DEET as well as covering up areas of exposed skin with long sleeves and trousers. Travellers to the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil should also seek advice regarding avoiding tropical diseases prior to travel.

Typhoid Outbreak, Zimbabwe

There are reports of an increase in the number of cases of Typhoid being reported across Zimbabwe with the number of reports rising from 15 to over 130 in the past two weeks. Typhoid, which is spread due to poor sanitary conditions, is a vaccinatable disease and travellers to Zimbabwe should ensure that they are up-to-date with the vaccinations required for the regions which they intend to travel.

Rabies Deaths, Peru

12 locals from the Peruvian Amazon have died over the past few months following contracting Rabies after being infected by bats. Although the rabies virus has been in decline in South America over recent years, this current outbreak has occurred in a region where locals have limited to no access to healthcare education and facilities. Healthcare workers are now organising a vaccination programme to ensure that the local people of this remote area are protected against this fatal disease. Travellers to Peru should seek advice prior to travel regarding advice about vaccination against Rabies.

Meningitis Outbreak, Nigeria

An outbreak of Meningitis in northern Nigeria has infected over 2000 people and killed more than 100. Meningitis causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and can lead to serious medical issues if left untreated, including death. It is common across the Meningitis belt of Saharan Africa and the Middle East and is spread by infected people breathing, coughing and sneezing on other people, especially in crowded areas such as public transport and large crowds and gatherings. Travellers to this region should seek advice regarding vaccination prior to travel.