Zika virus now in Britain and Florida state in US


01 Aug 2016 | by Daily Mirror
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Zika virus now in Britain and Florida state in US

Three patients have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital in West Yorkshire.

And the disease looks to be taking a grip hold globally with holiday hotspot Florida confirming four cases.

They appear to be from mosquito-borne carriers, suggesting the disease maybe spreading from South to North America.

The UK, the information on the three cases was revealed in a Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust infection control report.

And there have been 53 cases of Zika in the UK since January this year, Public Health England has revealed.

The statement from the hospital trust said: “Three patients have tested positive for Zika virus following return from foreign travel.”

Public Health England today said small numbers of Zika cases are expected in the UK from foreign travellers.

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Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “We expect to see small numbers of Zika virus infections in travellers returning to the UK, but the risk to the wider population is very low as the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus is not found in the UK.

"As of 27 July 2016, over 50 cases have been diagnosed in UK travellers since January 2016. Public Health England is monitoring the international situation closely and the risk to the UK remains unchanged.

“If you have recently returned from an area where Zika virus transmissions are currently reported and have a fever or flu-like illness, seek medical attention without delay to exclude malaria and mention your recent travel.”

Meanwhile, health officials in British tourist hotspot Florida have reported the first cases of local transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the US.

The Florida Department of Health recorded the four reported cases of the virus are likely mosquito-borne, Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

One of these cases involves a woman and the other three involve men, Scott said.

Around 3.8m Brits travel to the US every year, which worries the disease could be picked up abroad.

Dr Dilys Morgan told a committee of MPs in February that the cases of Zika virus confirmed in the UK were "travel associated" and not contracted in Britain.

Infection control lead for the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital Trust, Dr Gavin Boyd, said: "There is extremely low risk of contracting Zika virus in the UK as the mosquito that transmits the virus is not present in the UK.

"A small number of cases of sexual transmission globally have been reported but the risk is very, very small. There is no specific treatment and it wears off naturally after two to seven days. After a diagnosis patients are cared for by their GPs."

It comes days after the first case of a baby born with a birth defect linked to Zika in Europe.

The baby was born in Spain with microcephaly - a defect which is thought to be connected to the virus.

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The child was born at a hospital in Barcelona with medics saying the baby had an abnormally small head.

It is believed the mother had been infected with Zika during a trip to Latin America.

The mother was diagnosed with the virus in May but she decided to keep the baby and it was born today, health officials said.

And it comes just days before the Olympic Games begin in Brazil, where the virus originated.

Zika infection has been associated with microcephaly, which results in children being born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.

Scientists have now estimated that up to 1.65 million women of child-bearing age in Latin America could still be at risk from Zika.

Brazil is expected to shoulder the heaviest burden from the current epidemic, with more than three times the number of infections of any other country.

Researchers calculated how many people could become infected by the virus in every five square kilometre region of Central and South America.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, show there could be more than 90 million infections before the current epidemic burns itself out.

Professor Andrew Tatem, from the University of Southampton, is a member of the Anglo-French research team.

He said: "It is difficult to accurately predict how many child-bearing women may be at risk from Zika because a large proportion of cases show no symptoms.

"This largely invalidates methods based on case data and presents a formidable challenge for scientists trying to understand the likely impact of the disease on populations.

" The scientists took into account disease patterns displayed in other similar epidemics, and factors influencing transmission of the virus, as well as climate conditions and incubation periods.

"Information on population, fertility, pregnancy rates, birth rates, and socio-economic conditions was also analysed. "

Prof Tatem added: "These projections are an important early contribution to global efforts to understand the scale of the Zika epidemic, and provide information about its possible magnitude to help allow for better planning for surveillance and outbreak response, both internationally and locally."

Since the Zika epidemic began in 2015, nearly 5,000 cases of microcephaly have been recorded in affected regions.

On February 1 this year the World Health Organisation declared the epidemic an international public health emergency.

Experts have predicted that the current epidemic may not last more than another two to three years due to the high number of infections leading to "herd immunity".

This is when such a high proportion of a population develop immunity to a virus or microbe that the infectious agent runs out of available hosts.

Generally, it causes fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

It causes illness in about one in five people, but is particularly dangerous for pregnant women.

It can cause a condition called microcephaly, which means that children are born with an abnormally small head.

Many children die from this condition, which causes severe brain damage.

The virus is carried by mosquitoes and can infect people that are bitten.

There is currently no vaccine for the Zika virus and sufferers will just have to let the illness run its course.

The best way is to avoid South America, where the disease is common.

If you have to travel there, you should cover up, wear mosquito repellent, sleep under nets and do everything you can to avoid the insects.

Since it emerged that local mosquitoes can transmit the virus from an infected individual to a non-infected one, indigenous as well as imported cases can be equal sources of transmission.

The mosquitoes that transmit Zika in South and Latin America are present in Florida and can transmit the virus from an infected person to another.

The risk for the UK is extremely low. Mosquitoes of the genus Aedes that are currently shown to transmit Zika in the Americas are not present in the UK and will not appear from one day to another.

Low intensity experimental transmission of Zika by other mosquitoes, which are more widespread and may be present in the UK, is not shown for the moment to play any role in actual field transmission.

The impact on Brits currently in Florida is no different than the impact on all other people in Florida.

I understand that transmission is believed to be currently confined with a small area of a county north of downtown Miami, yet mosquitoes can fly beyond those boundaries, while people move constantly, so I believe it is matter of time to spread further.

There is no reason for panic. The symptoms are benign and by taking proper care against mosquito bites (use repellents, wear long sleeves etc), one can protect themselves from getting infected.

Of course, as said so many times in past, pregnant women should be extra careful, not because they are more susceptible to infection but because the consequences of a potential infection may be more devastating.

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