Thursday, 4 August 2016

Zika Virus Hits Scotland

A number of people have been diagnosed with Zika in Scotland, officials have admitted, as the number of cases across the UK rises to 60.

The Scottish Government said that the virus, which is causing a major health alert in South America, "does not pose a public health risk" in Scotland.

But it refused to disclose exactly how many cases have been identified in the country after the UK Government updated its figures on Wednesday.

It follows widespread reports six days ago that three people were treated for Zika in the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust area in West Yorkshire.

The Zika virus is associated with a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in children being born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.

Several top competitors have decided not to take part in this year's Olympic Games in Brazil as a result of the risk, including golfer Rory McIlroy.

All those diagnosed with the virus in the UK so far have been travellers returning from infected areas.

Large amounts of South and Central America, the Caribbean, South East Asia and Oceania have seen cases of transmission confirmed in the last nine months.

Three days ago, pregnant women were told to avoid travelling to an area of Miami, Florida, affected by the Zika virus, after 10 new cases were confirmed in the US.

But there have also been warnings to men to wear condoms or refrain from sex after returning from infected areas as the virus has been known to lie dormant in sperm.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We can assure the public that Zika does not pose a public health risk in Scotland, and of the cases identified in the UK a very small number have been found in Scotland.

"The mosquito that spreads the virus is not found in the UK, and in any case would not be able to establish in Scotland because of our climate. Zika cannot be spread through person-to-person or airborne contact."

He added: "We have already informed the at-risk groups about the risks and how to protect themselves through Health Protection Scotland's travel advice.

"We continue to closely monitor developments in our understanding of the Zika virus as treatments and testing regimes develop."

Nearly 5,000 babies with microcephaly have been recorded in affected regions since the Zika epidemic began in 2015.

An international public health emergency was declared by the World Health Organisation as a result of the outbreak in February.

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