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Zika Virus: WHO warning about the risks in Europe is timely and real

The WHO Europe warning about the risk of Zika virus in Europe is timely and real.

There have already been indigenous European outbreaks of two closely related viruses – Dengue and Chikungunya – that are spread by mosquitos.

For example, an outbreak of Chikungunya occurred in the North East of Italy in 2007 and affected some 217 people and there have been several reports of dengue fever in France in people who had not previously travelled overseas.

As highlighted by the WHO Europe statement the risk is mostly in southern Europe and especially around the Mediterranean coast.

However, even if Zika did start to spread in Europe, it is unlikely to become established as an outbreak is very unlikely to continue over winter. Any outbreak would be relatively short-lived.

Nevertheless, an outbreak occurring in the Mediterranean area could still have repercussions throughout Europe if pregnant holidaymakers acquire the infection or if males then pass the infection sexually to their pregnant partners.

If and when the disease does come to Europe it will be essential that people are very careful about using insect repellents and use condoms during sex if they think they have been exposed.

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