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New advice for travellers on Zika virus

RCN produces leaflet for women returning from countries affected by virus linked to birth defects

New advice about the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects, has been published by the RCN.

The information leaflet is aimed at women returning from areas with active Zika transmission who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Additionally, it provides advice for pregnant women who are diagnosed with Zika virus infection, and pregnant women whose baby is thought to be affected.

Women who are pregnant and those trying to conceive who have recently returned to the UK from countries with active Zika transmission have been advised to inform their midwife, GP or obstetrician that they may have been exposed to the virus, even if they do not have any symptoms.

Anyone returning from a country with active Zika transmission who has a fever, rash or flu-like illness should seek medical attention to exclude the virus without delay.

The Zika infection is caused by a virus that is transmitted by the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito, most commonly Aedes aegypti. The infection has seen an increase in transmission over the past few months, especially in South and Central America.

For the vast majority of people, the infection is a very mild, short-lived illness lasting between two and seven days. Typical symptoms include fever, rash, flu-like symptoms and joint pain. However, apparent increases in birth defects (particularly microcephaly), and other neurological and immune conditions, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, are being reported in areas where there is active Zika virus transmission.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Zika infection – supportive care and relief of symptoms are the standard treatment.

The leaflet also includes advice to a male partner to reduce risk of transmission during and after travel.

It has been jointly produced by the RCN, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and Public Health England.

RCM professional policy adviser Janet Fyle, said: ‘This advice will be most valuable to those women and their partners who have travelled to high risk or other affected areas and may be concerned they have contracted the Zika virus.

‘Equally, this information will be helpful for pregnant women and their babies who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus infection.’

Read the leaflet, Health advice for women returning from areas with active Zika virus transmission, here

The RCM and RCOG published joint guidance for midwives, obstetricians and other healthcare professionals last month which can be viewed here.

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