Tropical travellers urged to reconsider plans: AMA (WA)

Tropical travellers urged to reconsider plans: AMA (WA)

Tuesday 16 February 2016


The AMA (WA) has urged all West Australians travelling to South America to reconsider their travel plans, as health officials struggle to get the current Zika virus pandemic under control.


“Until the current situation is resolved, we urge people to be extremely cautious about travelling to countries where Zika virus outbreaks have occurred,” AMA (WA) President Dr Michael Gannon said today.


“We still have a lot to learn about the virus, and it is very unclear what is the exact link between the virus and certain severe birth defects.


“What we do know is that is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted by species of the Aedes mosquito.


“The symptoms are similar to other mosquito-borne disease such as dengue or malaria, but are usually very mild. A rash, fever, headaches, tiredness and muscle or joint pain have been seen in those with the virus, but these symptoms usually disappear within a week.


A majority of people who contract the virus display no symptoms at all, making it an extremely difficult disease to diagnose,” Dr Gannon said.


There is no definitive proof that the Zika virus causes microcephaly, the medical term for small brain. However the sharp increase in cases of microcephaly in areas where there is a high incidences of Zika virus infection has led health authorities to believe that there is a link.


“Microcephaly is associated with a graduated spectrum of problems from developmental delay and learning problems to blindness, deafness, seizures and intellectual impairment,” Dr Gannon said.


“It is not a common condition, but cases have skyrocketed in Brazil and other parts of South America.


“Until more is known about the link between the Zika Virus and microcephaly, we urge all pregnant West Australians to avoid non-essential travel to tropical areas where this genus of mosquitoes live.


“There have been reports of Zika virus being transmitted through sexual intercourse, so we urge all travellers to the Americas and the Asia-Pacific and Asia to practice safe sex,” Dr Gannon said.


“For those who are still planning to travel to South America, ensure that you are well-protected against mosquito-bites.


“Wear long sleeved shirts and pants, sleep under mosquito nets and use mosquito repellents.


“We also advise travellers to make use of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smart Traveller website for further updates and information,” Dr Gannon said.

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