GIA editor

Zika virus may reach Europe this summer

Areas at risk are those where Aedes mosquitoes may spread the virus, like the Black Sea coast of Russia and Georgia, followed by France, Spain, Italy and Greece
18 May 2016

Smitha Mundasad for BBC reports: The Zika virus could spread to Europe this summer, although the likelihood of an outbreak is low to moderate, the World Health Organization has said. However, the U.N. agency has not issued any travel recommendations yet.

In order to minimize the risk, the WHO recommends to eliminate mosquito breeding sites and to make sure that people – particularly pregnant women – have information on the potentially harmful consequences of the disease. The agency added that although most countries are prepared to pick up any new cases, other must as well reinforce their ability to diagnose and fight the virus.

Health scientists have been linking Zika virus to a dramatic rise in brain defects in babies, and the virus has been seen in more than 50 countries during this outbreak. And WHO experts say the risk of spread increases in late spring and summer as Aedes mosquitoes – thought to carry the virus – become more active.

Prof Jimmy Whitworth, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the risk of Zika spreading to Europe was real and called for holidaymakers to heed health advice.

He added: "The main mosquito vector for Zika, Aedes aegypti, is only found in Madeira and around the Black Sea, but another mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is more widespread and is capable of transmitting Zika, although not very efficiently.

"Countries in Southern Europe, including France and Italy, need to be especially vigilant and it's important that holidaymakers follow public health advice while abroad, including taking all the necessary precautions to avoid getting bitten. This is especially so for pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, traveling to areas where there is Zika, as there is now a proven link with microcephaly and other birth defects."


By Stefan Paraber for GIA.