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Zika fact sheet

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus is a mosquito borne virus closely related to dengue that has been known since 1947, mainly occurring in Africa and Asia.

Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a day biting mosquito found in tropical and subtropical areas.  It is the same mosquito that can transmit dengue fever. 

Why have health officials become concerned and why has the World Health Organisation issued a declaration?

In 2015 outbreaks of Zika virus appeared in the Americas.  Limited data from recent outbreaks in Central and South America, particularly Brazil, have raised concerns that infection with Zika virus during pregnancy might be associated with birth defects including microcephaly.  At this stage information is limited and further research is needed.  In the meantime, as a precaution, pregnant women are advised to consider postponing travel to any area with Zika virus outbreaks.

What are the symptoms and what is the risk to my health?

It is usually associated with mild illness and full recovery, with only one in five people infected having symptoms. Symptoms may include fever, sore joints and a rash, but are usually not so severe as to require medical attention.  

What is treatment?

There is no treatment as the virus usually involves mild symptoms and a full recovery. Some cases include fever, sore joints and a rash, but usually these cases do not require medical attention.

What is the risk to Wide Bay residents?

Zika virus has not been found in Queensland. However, people infected with Zika virus overseas who return to Queensland when unwell could facilitate local transmission if they return to an area where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are found.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that could spread Zika virus are established in north Queensland, but also can be found in parts of central Queensland.  Aedes aegypti have been found in low numbers in some years as far south as Gin Gin and in parts of the North Burnett. The risk for transmission of dengue in these areas is much lower than in north Queensland.

Are there any plans in place if an outbreak was to occur? What are those plans?

WBHHS has noted the global alert on Zika virus released by the WHO and will work with public health authorities in Queensland to monitor the situation as it evolves.

If a patient presented with fever, sore joints and rash with an appropriate travel history (i.e. history of recent travel to an affected area) then Zika virus could be considered in the diagnosis and appropriate tests taken (along with tests for dengue, malaria etc). 

Any GP or hospital case of suspected Zika virus infections will be notified to the public health unit to enable a risk assessment for local transmission.  In the event of a case of Zika virus infection occurring in an area with potential for local transmission, appropriate case follow up and mosquito control measures will be undertaken to stop the spread of virus.

Good information for clinicians is available on the Department of Health website http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-zika-health-practitioners.htm.  This information will be updated as new information emerges.  The link to this website has been circulated to doctors working for the WBHHS.

From January 2014 to 12 January 2016 there have been 10 overseas acquired cases of Zika virus infection reported in Queensland, 7 cases in 2014 and 3 cases in 2015.


Last updated: 3 February 2016