With the spreading panic about Zika virus around the world, many Australian’s, especially those pregnant or planning to become pregnant, are looking for information on Zika virus in Australia.
We’ve collected together all the current, available information on Zika virus in Australia to answer some of your most frequently asked questions. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you might also want to have a read our guide on everything pregnant women need to know about Zika virus.
Zika virus in Australia: Everything you need to know
What is Zika virus?
Zika virus is not a new phenomenon, it has been around since at least the 1940’s and originated in the Zika region of Uganda. The symptoms are generally mild and include fever, rash and red eyes, similar to a mild form of dengue fever.
The outbreak of Zika virus currently occurring in South America has caused widespread concern due to possible links with birth defects, in particular microcephaly.
How is Zika virus spread?
Zika virus is spread by infected mosquitos, specifically the Aedes species mosquito, which is the same mosquite responsible for the spread of Dengue.
There is also some concern that is may be able to be transmitted via blood or sexual contact in certain cases. Evidence of transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy has also been found.
Where is Zika virus found?
The countries experiencing outbreaks of Zika virus change constantly. You can find current details on Smart Traveller. The largest outbreaks are currently occurring in Central and South America.
Has Zika virus been detected in Australian’s?
Zika virus has been detected in several Australians, but all those affected had recently travelled to a know Zika infected area (such as South America and Samoa). There are currently no reported cases of local transmission of Zika virus in Australia.
Could Zika virus come to Australia?
The only mosquito breeds capable of transmitting or carrying Zika virus are found only in far North Queensland. It is possible, even likely, that there will be some form of outbreak of Zika virus in Australian mosquitos in the future. The size of such an outbreak is likely to be very small due to the safeguards Australia has in place.
Has Zika virus been found in Australian mosquitos?
Zika virus has not been found in Australian mosquitoes to date.
How would Zika virus get into Australia?
Zika virus could potentially spread to Australia via an infected person returning from overseas. As Zika virus is spread via a specific breed of mosquito found only in Far North Queensland, the infected person would need to be bitten by a local mosquito who could then potentially pass the infection on locally.
Australia is closely monitoring travellers returning from infected areas overseas, and any travellers identified as having the virus are isolated so the risk of establishing local transmission is minimised.
I’m pregnant or planning to become pregnant, what do I need to know?
Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant are being advised not to travel to Zika affected areas. You can find further information on Zika and pregnancy here.
What should Australian’s be doing about Zika virus?
At the moment, Zika virus has not been found in local mosquitos but it is still wise for Australia’s living in Far North Queensland to ensure mosquito populations are kept to a minimum and appropriate mosquito protection is worn.
Australian’s considering travel to Zika affected area should be aware of the symptoms and take precautions to avoid being bitten by local mosquitos. Australian’s who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant are advised not to travel to Zika infected areas.
Travellers returning from Zika affected areas should be on alert for any symptoms of Zika virus and report any instances of fever, rash or red eyes immediately to their local GP.