DYNAMIQ IN THE NEWS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ZIKA VIRUS - UPDATED 09.09.16

Update - 9 September 2016

First pregnant woman with Zika reported in Malaysia

Malaysian health authorities have reported the first case of a pregnant woman contracting Zika in Malaysia. This is the third reported case of Zika in Malaysia. More than 275 cases have already been recorded in neighbouring Singapore. Malaysia’s health minister, S Subramaniam, said authorities had inspected a wide area around the woman's home and other places she had recently visited, and they were being fogged with mosquito-killing chemicals.

According to the World Health Organisaton

  • Zika is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, peaking during early morning and late afternoon/evening. 
  • There is scientific consensus that Zika infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Links to other neurological complications are also being investigated.
  • There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Zika.

 

Update - 13 July, 2016 

WHO says risk of Zika is low

While the World Health Organisation has declared the risk of contracting Zika at this year’s Olympics in Rio, is “very low”, several high-profile athletes have opted out of the games.

Some athletes, such as world number one golfer Jason Day, have cited the wellbeing of their families while others have said they need to protect themselves as their livelihood depends on their health and fitness.

We look at what athletes, and organisations with travellers or expats in Brazil, should be doing to keep themselves safe from the virus.

Symptoms

The symptoms are similar to infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.

People usually don’t get sick enough to go to hospital, and very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realise they have been infected.

The health crisis

Zika is a unique public health crisis because, for many, it does not seem to cause any illness at all. However, for those who are pregnant or become pregnant while infected, the effect of microcephaly on a child is huge.

Prevention

Protection against mosquito bites is the best measure to prevent Zika. This can be done by wearing light coloured clothes that cover as much of the body as possible, using physical barriers such as window screens or closing doors and windows, sleeping under mosquito nets and using insect repellent containing DEET, IR3535 or icaridin.

Sexual transmission of Zika virus has been documented in several different countries. 

To reduce the risk of sexual transmission and pregnancy complications related to Zika, the sexual partners of pregnant women, living in or returning from areas where local transmission of Zika virus occurs should practice safer sex (using condoms) or abstain from sex throughout the pregnancy.

At the venues of many Olympic sports, many athletes and spectators will not be able to stay indoors or comply with the recommended dress requirements outlined earlier.  Athletes and organisations need to weigh up these risks as they make decisions regarding their attendance at Olympic events. 

Organisations and Zika

With other public health crises, such as Ebola, the severe nature of the illness is very clear, making it easier for organisations to draw a line in the sand to protect their personnel. The evolving understanding of Zika stresses the importance of organisations having an active and ongoing risk assessment process, as well as robust communications with their personnel in assessing whether mitigation actions are enough.

The risk assessment is key

Comprehensive and consistent risk assessment and mitigation practices for public health crises are a must for organisations of all sizes. This includes predefined methodology for collecting information, as well as triggers for mitigation actions, and thresholds of when a risk is deemed too high. If the risk of Zika is deemed too great for some individuals, cross-training and continuity planning should also be in place to ensure that the business can continue with the least amount of disruption.

In addition, organisations should consider what treatment and long-term care they are willing and able to provide for their people should they become sick when traveling for business in Zika affected areas, or should they fall ill after arriving home.  The unknowns of Zika make it difficult to set strict parameters and timelines of what types of potential care may be needed.

Really need to be there?

For spectators, a chance to see the Olympic Games is an awesome opportunity, but not 100% necessary. Yet many athletes depend on the visibility of the Olympic Games to further their career and increase their income. In short, the games are their business.

The recent withdrawal of some athletes should serve as a reminder that all organisations need to assess if they have adequate practices in place to protect their people and operations from the Zika virus.

 

For further information on how to protect your people from Zika, or to discuss public health strategies or pandemic planning for your organisation, please contact Lacey Croco at +1 720 326-1777 or lacey.croco@dynamiqglobal.com

 

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Update - 22 March, 2016

What Is It?

The Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted to people via a bite from an infected mosquito. The mosquito, called the Aedes Aegypti, is the same mosquito that carries dengue fever, yellow fever and the chikungunya virus.

2007 was the first documented outbreak of the disease in the South Pacific, prior to that there were less than 15 cases documented since the virus was discovered in 1947 in Uganda. Currently there are several outbreaks, including in Central and South America - Brazil was the first location to document an outbreak and now have 4000 documented cases.

 

What Are the Symptoms?

Only 1 in 5 people who become infected with Zika Virus will become unwell. Symptoms are usually mild and self limiting and only last up to a week. They include fevers, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, headaches and muscle aches.

The time from exposure to symptoms presenting is currently unknown but is likely to be a few days to a week. Severe illness and death is very uncommon.

Pregnant women and their unborn children appear to be most at risk of complications arising from the Zika Virus. Serious birth defects and adverse outcomes have been widely documented after the mother has been infected during pregnancy.

The Brazilian health authorities are further investigating a link between the Zika Virus and an increased number of babies born with microcephaly, a serious brain condition.

It is highly recommended that pregnant women should avoid travelling to any regions where there is a current Zika Virus outbreak.

 

Where Can I Contract the Zika Virus?

Zika Virus is currently active in the local mosquito population in countries within the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, South America, Cape Verde and Samoa.

In mid-2015, the first cases of Zika Virus were confirmed in Brazil. Since then, there have been multiple outbreaks of the disease in several countries within the Americas, Africa and the Pacific Islands.

 

Prevention and Treatment

The best form of prevention of Zika Virus is to avoid being bitten by mosquitos. The Aedes mosquito tends to be found in urban areas. They are aggressive biters, particularly around dawn and dusk and lay their eggs in any still or stagnant water such as buckets, empty pot plants, and blocked gutters.

Prevention first begins with limiting breeding grounds by removing anything that holds water, clearing out gutters and removing any old rubbish near dwellings.

People can prevent being bitten by mosquitos by covering up in light colour, loose fitting clothing, using an appropriate repellent whenever you are outdoors and keeping mosquitos outside with the use of fans, air conditioning and window/door screens. Permethrin treated mosquito nets will also provide protection while sleeping.

Important points on prevention:

1. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection
2. If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent
3. Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing
4. Treat clothing and nets with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing

To avoid spreading the disease to others, bite prevention continues to be particularly important in the first week of the illness when the virus is still present in the blood.

There has been one case of disease transmission through unprotected sex and another case via a blood transfusion. Modes of transmission are still being investigated.

The illness is usually mild and there is no current vaccination or treatment specific to the Zika Virus. Treatment consists of symptoms management, such as paracetamol for pain and fevers, fluids for hydration and plenty of rest.

As the illness presents similar to Dengue fever, avoiding medications which can cause thinning of the blood, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, is recommended as these can increase the risk of haemorrhaging if Dengue is found to be the cause of the illness.

 

Travel Advice

The recent outbreaks and links to birth defects in pregnant women is of particular concern and women who live, work or travel in these regions need to closely monitor the situation and seek advice from their doctor and travel insurance provider.

With these recent outbreaks, the risk is that the number of travellers returning to non-infected regions with Zika Virus will increase and lead to local transmission and spread of the disease where there is an existing Aedes mosquito population. This would be the case for Australia where Aedes Mosquitos are found in far north Queensland.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia and The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new advice warning people, particularly pregnant women, to reconsider plans to travel to the 22 countries affected by the virus.

 

Countries with Active Zika Virus (Updated 22.3.2016)*

1) American Samoa
2) Aruba
3) Barbados
4) Bolivia
5) Brazil
6) Colombia
7) Cape Verde
8) Costa Rica
9) Curaçao
10) Dominican Republic
11) Ecuador
12) El Salvador
13) French Guiana
14) Guadelope
15) Guatemala
16) Guyana
17) Haiti
18) Honduras
19) Jamaica
20) Marshall Islands
21) Martinique
22) Mexico
23) New Caledonia
24) Nicaragua
25) Panama
26) Paraguay
27) Puerto Rico
28) Saint Martin
29) Sint Maarten
30) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
31) Samoa
32) Suriname
33) Thailand
34) Tonga
35) Trinidad and Tobago
36) US Virgin Islands
37) Venezuela

*We will continue to update the list as developments occur

 

 

Sources

www.cdc.gov
www.who.int
smartraveller.gov.au
www.abc.net.au

 

Update – 22/3/2016

New Caledonia has been added to the countries which are experiencing local transmission of the Zika Virus.

We continue to encourage that women who are pregnant or women planning pregnancy to exercise a high level of caution if travelling to New Caledonia and the regions below and reconsider travel where possible.

Another case of sexual transmission of the virus has also been reported, with a symptomatic man transmitting the virus to a women. Zika virus was found in his semen. The following direction is currently published around sexual contacts by government agencies and given the uncertainty and potential serious implications of transmission to a pregnant women, Dynamiq supports the following recommendations:

1) Men who have travelled to an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission, whose partner is pregnant should abstain from sexual activity (vaginal, anal, or oral) or consistently use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.

2) Men who have had a confirmed Zika virus infection, whose partner is not pregnant should abstain from sexual activity (vaginal, anal, or oral) or consistently use condoms for 3 months following the resolution of symptoms.

The United States has had 258 cases of travel related cases of Zika Virus though still no locally acquired transmission. Australia continues to have travel related cases returning to Australia, including a pregnant women from Victoria. There has been no local transmission cases in Australia at present.

There is a risk of local transmission occurring from infected returning travellers in areas of Northern Queensland where the suitable vector, Aedes aegypti, occurs which are currently considered dengue receptive. Regional councils where infected travellers have returned are currently co-ordinating visits in some areas to remove mosquito breeding sites and spraying people’s homes. The risk of transmission still remains low in Australia currently.

Dynamiq continues to encourage travellers to avoid mosquitos bites as the best form of Zika prevention as well as many mosquito carrying viruses such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Malaria.

Dynamiq will continue to provide updates on the Zika Virus situation as it evolves.

 

Update 4/2/2016

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Zika Virus a global emergency on 2/2/16. “I am now declaring that the recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014 constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO director general Margaret Chan said in a statement.

A case of the Zika Virus spread through sexual contact was discovered on 3/2/16 by health officials in Dallas. This is the first such case in the United States. There are still no reports of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the US. Travelers who have returned from an area where Zika is present are being asked to practice safe sex, as well as avoid mosquitos.

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