Zika virus expected to spread to Europe’s holiday spots

Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus could soon arrive in Europe. Picture: AP
Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus could soon arrive in Europe. Picture: AP
Share this article
Have your say

The Zika virus is expected to spread to parts of Europe in late spring and summer, health leaders have said.

Many holiday spots have been classed as a “moderate” risk including France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Switzerland.

If the virus spreads to France, there could be implications for the Euro 2016 football championships. Thousands of supporters from the UK will travel to France for the tournament, which begins on 10 June.

Health officials have already been forced to consider the impact of the virus in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged pregnant women not to travel to the area and issued advice for athletes and visitors.

A third of countries in Europe and surrounding regions have a “moderate” risk of a Zika outbreak, according to the latest WHO risk assessment.

While the UK is deemed to be “low” risk, global health chiefs have urged preparedness. Officials should continue to be alert to detect imported cases early and provide public health advice to travellers, WHO said.

The overall risk across Europe is said to be “low to moderate”. The WHO said risk varies across the continent and is higher where the Aedes mosquito that carries the virus is present.

The likelihood of local Zika virus transmission, if no measures are taken to mitigate the threat, is moderate in 18 countries in Europe.

The risk is high on Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea. Thirty-six countries have a low, very low or no likelihood, owing to the absence of mosquitoes or a suitable climate for them.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “We at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk.

“We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritise the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak.”

The most recent figures show that 23 UK travellers have been infected after visiting affected regions.

The majority of those infected with Zika will have no symptoms, but for others it can cause a rash, fever and headache.

Serious complications are not common, but experts have said the virus can cause microcephaly and other congenital abnormalities in babies born to mothers infected with the virus as well as a rare disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.