While the media hype around Zika has died down somewhat, the virus is still a problem in many areas and the World Health Organization says that now it may reach Europe by the summer.
According to an article on BBC.com, the WHO does not expect a major outbreak to occur in Europe, but is issuing the warning as a precaution to expectant mothers who may risk being exposed to the virus.
Areas that are expected to carry a moderate risk of hosting the virus include France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The risk is expected to be low in the UK.
The greatest risk is expected to occur in areas where Aedes mosquitoes may spread the virus the WHO states, like the Black Sea coast of Russia and Georgia, and the island of Madeira. These are the only locations in Europe known to host the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main agent for transmission of the virus, and so the risk is highest in these areas.
Experts are warning though that another mosquito, the Aedes albopictus, is also capable of transmitting Zika to humans, and while it doesn’t work as efficiently, it is much more widespread in Europe. No new official travel advisories have been issued as of yet, but experts are advising vacationers to exercise caution.
Prof Jimmy Whitworth, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told the BBC,
“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.”
The WHO declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency this year, as outbreaks of the virus that causes microcephaly in babies growing in the womb spread throughout South America and elsewhere.
The virus is most dangerous to babies, as it hinders their brain development, and is transmitted to pregnant mothers who are bitten by infected mosquitoes, and then pass the virus to the fetus.