Health officials from the World Health Organisation’s European office state that the Zika virus is expected to hit parts of Europe in late spring and summer. This is due to increasing distribution of Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) in Europe combined with an increase in imported cases of Zika due to infected travellers returning home from Zika affected areas. The rapid increase in the spread of the closely related Aedes albopictus now present in 18 European countries (including the UK where a single outbreak was recorded in September 2016), further increases the risk of Zika and mosquito borne diseases in Europe.
In its first assessment of the threat Zika poses within Europe, the World Health Organisation states that the overall risk is small to moderate.
Overall, a third of countries in Europe have a ‘moderate’ risk of an outbreak of the virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects in babies.
Although there has been over 400 cases of Zika virus in Europe, no local spread of Zika has yet been detected.
People should be vigilant in areas where the daytime biting Tiger mosquitoes are found and ensure they are adequately protected against mosquito bites by covering exposed areas of skin and by wearing insect repellent.