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1080 - 02/16 - Zika Virus - Worldwide
The Association has produced the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to the recent outbreak of Zika Virus.
1. What is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease, transmitted by the Aedes mosquito – the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikugunya and yellow fever. It typically occurs in tropical areas with large mosquito populations and is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Southern Asia and the Western Pacific.
The Zika virus usually causes a mild, short lived illness, lasting 2 to 7 days. However, recent concerns relate to whether there may be a link between the virus in pregnant women and microcephaly in babies. Although this has not been confirmed, the International Health Regulation Emergency Committee on 1 February 2016 declared that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
2. How is it transmitted?
Zika virus is introduced into the human population through mosquito bites. Health authorities are also currently investigating the possibility that the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact.
3. What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Zika virus are typically only present in a quarter of sufferers. The symptoms, which are similar to dengue or chikugunya, include a low grade fever, joint pain, a rash (sometimes itchy), conjunctivitis/red eyes, headache and muscle pain.
The incubation period, or the interval from infection to onset of symptoms, is between 3 and 12 days, with the illness typically lasting 2 to 7 days. The presence of the virus can be confirmed through a blood test.
4. Zika Virus and pregnant women
Following the PHEIC announcement, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, to take extra care to protect themselves from mosquito bites when traveling to affected areas. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also recommended that women who are pregnant may wish to consider postponing non-essential travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
5. Advice to help prevention and transmission of the Zika Virus
To try to prevent contracting the Zika virus whilst in a high risk area, seafarers and passengers are advised to take the following steps to prevent mosquito bites:
i. Use insect repellent and re-apply as directed.
ii. Wear long sleeved clothing (preferably light-coloured).
iii. Use physical barriers where possible – closed doors, closed windows, sleeping under a mosquito net.
iv. Empty, clean or cover containers that hold even small amounts of water so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed.
A small number of cases of sexual transmission of Zika virus have been reported. Although the risk of sexual transmission of Zika virus is thought to be very low, male seafarers are advised to use a condom if a female partner is at risk of getting pregnant, or is already pregnant. Seafarers returning home from a Zika transmission area are advised to use condoms for 28 days upon repatriation, even if they display no symptoms, and 6 months if a clinical diagnosis has been made.
As there is a chance that the Zika virus can also be spread through blood transfusions, individuals are advised not to give blood for 28 days upon return from a Zika infected country.
Given that the Aedes mosquito is also a carrier of dengue, chikugunya and yellow fever, seafarers and passengers are advised to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date.
6. Advice on available treatment
There are currently no specific antiviral treatments available for the Zika virus. However, symptoms can be alleviated by ensuring proper hydration and the use of pain and fever medication, such as acetaminophen (paracetamol). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen should be avoided.
7. Advice for ships calling at ports in the affected countries
Based on available evidence, the WHO is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions related to Zika virus.
8. Links to helpful websites
The World Health Organisation; Factsheet on the Zika Virus;
The World Health Organisation; Q&A document on Zika Virus;
Public Health England; Zika Virus Guidance;
Centers for Disease Control and Provention; Zika Travel Advice;
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); January newsletter page 3;
Source of Information
Amanda Hastings, UK Club, London Syndicate 3
London Syndicate 3 – The People Claims Syndicate exclusively handles all P&I/Defence matters relating to crew, stevedores, passengers, refugees and third party visitors involving injury, illness, death, drug smuggling, immigration fines, loss of or damage to effects of crew/others and occupational disease.