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Several cases of zika virus infections have been reported in Germany
Many people only associate the Zika virus with Brazil. But the dangerous pathogen is also common in other parts of the world. Long-distance travelers should therefore not underestimate the dangers posed by the virus. Cases of infection have also been reported in Germany this year.
Zika virus can cause skull deformities in babies
According to health experts, the Zika virus is not fatal, but it can cause cranial deformities in newborns. In so-called “microcephaly”, children are born with an unusually small head, which can lead to brain malformations. Since the virus is found in many regions of the world, long-distance travelers should not underestimate the dangers posed by the pathogen. Especially pregnant women and women who want to have children should follow the recommendations of experts and carefully consider which countries they can travel to.
Virus threat should not be underestimated
With regard to the upcoming Christmas holidays, Bavaria's Minister of Health Melanie Huml has warned long-distance travelers not to underestimate the danger posed by the dangerous Zika virus.
“Even after the zika virus epidemic in South and Central America has subsided, there is no reason to give the all-clear. Zika virus infections occur worldwide in more than 80 countries - especially in the tropics and subtropics, ”the minister said in a statement.
“There is still a risk of getting infected with the Zika virus while traveling. Especially pregnant women and women who want to get pregnant should therefore not travel to Zika virus outbreak areas on the recommendation of the Federal Foreign Office. "
Pregnant women should avoid traveling to high-risk areas
The World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the countries affected by the Zika virus into different categories, depending on the risk of a possible transmission.
The Federal Foreign Office (AA) has endorsed this assessment and recommends that “pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant refrain from avoidable travel” in regions of WHO category 1 or 2, “because there is a risk of early childhood malformations when women are infected is ".
"The transmission risk can vary considerably both regionally and seasonally," the AA writes, for example, when referring to Thailand.
"In the case of unavoidable trips, care must be taken to consistently apply personal protective measures throughout the day to avoid mosquito bites," the office wrote in an older communication.
Virus can spread to the unborn
“Infection is particularly dangerous in pregnant women because the virus can spread to the unborn child. Studies indicate that infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy can lead to brain malformations in the fetus, ”explained Huml, who is a licensed doctor.
"In addition, other neurological abnormalities and malformations such as placental insufficiency up to the death of the fetus are associated with the infection," said the minister.
According to the information, two zika virus infections in Bavaria were sent to the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL) by December 3, 2018.
In both cases, they were people who had been in a risk area abroad - in Cuba and the Philippines. There were 15 confirmed cases in the same period last year.
However, because the majority of infections are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms, the number of unreported Zika infections is probably high.
Sick people were previously in a risk area
Zika viruses are primarily transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes. These are, for example, the yellow fever mosquitoes that are widespread in the tropics and parts of the subtropics. Sexual transmission is also possible.
"All of the people from Bavaria suffering from zika virus in the past three years had previously traveled to a risk area such as Central America, Southeast Asia or the Caribbean Islands," says Huml.
"So far, no transmission is known within Bavaria - either through mosquito bites or through sexual contacts. Holidaymakers should pay attention to possible symptoms of a Zika virus infection after returning from risk areas, ”the Minister warned.
“This includes a rash, headache, joint pain and muscle pain. Anyone who notices these symptoms should go to the doctor. "
Protective measures to avoid mosquito bites
Huml added: “Travelers to tropical countries should find out about the current status of zika virus infections in the respective region and seek advice from a tropical or travel doctor. When inevitable trips to high-risk countries, protective measures should be taken to avoid mosquito bites. "
The WHO recommends that pregnant women whose partners return from a risk area practice “safe sex” until the end of their pregnancy.
Couples planning to become pregnant should wait at least six months after returning from a risk area.
Regardless of this, all travelers should protect their sexual partners with condoms for at least six months after returning from the zika virus outbreak areas. (ad)