Irish people are being advised to take appropriate precautions if visiting Central and South America and the Caribbean. The advice comes in the wake of the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the zika virus as a public health emergency of international concern.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade currently has travel advisories in place for 32 countries and territories in response to the ongoing outbreak.
"We would particularly urge pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant to consult with their healthcare professionals and to consider postponing their travel to affected areas," said Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan this week. "This is particularly relevant for travel to areas classified as having 'increasing or widespread transmission' of the zika virus.
"Any citizens intending to travel to the Caribbean or Central and South America should ensure they take the proper precautions against mosquito bites and secure the necessary vaccinations for this type of environment. My Department will remain in close contact with the HSE and with our Missions in the Americas in relation to this outbreak.”
The virus causes a mild illness which clears up within a few days in infected individuals, with up to three out of four people infected experiencing no symptoms at all. However an apparent link between the virus and microcephaly — a serious birth defect — in newborns whose mothers were infected during pregnancy is causing international concern.
The Irish Travel Agents Association is also working to help people who wish to change their travel plans as a result of the outbreak.
“ITAA member agents are working closely with their airline and hotelier colleagues to minimise any inconvenience and expense to their customers, particularly pregnant women, who may wish to change their travel plans to areas affected by the zika virus outbreak," said Pat Dawson, CEO of the ITAA. “We will continue to monitor the situation in Central and South America and the Caribbean in close partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
The HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre is publishing up-to-date information and guidance on its website www.hpsc.ie