In recent years, the Zika virus has become one of the most talked about and feared health scares in modern history.

In most cases the virus, mainly spread by bites from mosquitos, only results in a mild infection of no lasting damage, but the sight of babies with abnormally small heads born to infected mothers in Central and South America put the virus on front pages all around the world. So what do travellers need to know about Zika?

[Read more: What is yellow fever? Everything you need to know about the deadly tropical disease]

The danger zone

Zika was first discovered in Africa in 1947 and was reported in Asia in the 1970s but it was the outbreak in Brazil in the run-up to the 2016 Olympic Games that put it on the world news agenda.

In May 2017, Brazil declared the national zika virus emergency over, after the number of cases between January and April fell 95% from the same period in the previous year.

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Zika does not naturally occur in the UK but there have been reports of outbreaks in the Pacfic region, Caribbean, South and Central America and south east Asia. There are reports of it being spread through sexual transmission.

If in doubt, seek travel advice before you go to a potentially affected country. The safest precaution for pregnant women is to avoid or delay travelling to Zika-threatened areas.

The symptoms

Not many - only one in five of those infected are believed to develop any symptoms. Those that have been reported include rashes, fevers, itching and joint/muscle pain. 


Covering up and wearing insect repellent are the most straight forward ones. Unlike the mosquitoes who spread malaria, those affected by mosquitoes are most active during the day, especially during mid-morning, then late-afternoon to dusk.

[Read more: Why the humble mosquito is one of the greatest threats to mankind]


There is no specific treatment for symptoms, but if you feel unwell after returning from a country that also has a malaria risk, seeking urgent medical advice to see if that is the problem. 

If symptoms continue after that has been ruled out, go back again.

Vaccine trials have been conducted during 2017 and are on-going.