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Do you need to worry about Zika in Rio this summer?

With the Rio Olympics fast approaching, many are rightly concerned about travelling to the South American city because of the current widespread Zika Virus.

Zika Virus is transmitted by certain mosquitoes known as Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, to humans. When transmitted to the majority of people through a mosquito bite, the NHS describe the virus as a “very mild infection and isn't harmful.” However it can cause serious birth defects if transmitted to a woman who is pregnant. These defects can include microcephaly, which cases babies to be born with unusually small heads.

A recent study from the US, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, discovered that of the 500,000 possible people visiting Brazil for the Olympics, just three would be predicted to leave with the virus. The study was done in order to judge the threat of the virus, after concerns were raised for the games to be moved or called off altogether. However, the results found that the threat of the virus was minor.

The lead author of the study, Joseph Lewnard said “ If anything, I would say the estimate we have published greatly overestimates the true risk.”

Professor Albert Ko, who is chair of the department of epidemiology of microbial diseases at YSPH said “The possibility that travellers returning from the Olympics may spread Zika has become a polemic issue that has led to athletes dropping out of the event, and without evidence, undue stigmatisation of Brazil.

This study provides data, which together with initial findings from Brazilian scientists, show that these concerns may be largely exaggerated.”

Some of the world's biggest sportsmen have recently pulled out of the games because of the virus. World famous golfer, Rory McIlroy has decided not to travel to the games, with other olympians following in his footsteps. With many olympians deciding to pull out of attending the games, The World Health Organisation has decided to reassure the athletes, that they will not let the virus be a risk to the games.

When traveling to a Zika transmitted area, the NHS recommend that you should receive travel health advice before you leave. For pregnant women, it is advised that you postpone all non-essential trips to locations where Zika Virus transmission is currently active.

Although no symptoms usually show once you’ve contracted the virus, if symptoms do show, they are usually minor and tend not to last too long. These symptoms can include:

- Fever

- Headache

- Itchiness and rashes

- Muscle and joint pains

- Lower back pain

- Reddening of your eyes

- Pain behind your eyes

The director of science and lead of infection and immunobiology at the Wellcome Trust, Professor Mike Turner, has said “This study suggests that for spectators and athletes travelling to Rio this summer, the risk of contracting Zika Virus is very low indeed. What risk there is can be mitigated further by taking measures to prevent mosquito bites, such as applying high quality insect repellant regularly.”

Methods to prevent yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes include:

- Using deet based repellant products

- Wearing loose and baggy clothing - Try to steer clear of skin tight clothing, as mosquitoes can often bite through them, especially if they are made of a thin material. Wearing baggier and loose-fitting clothes also allows you to keep cooler, deterring the mosquitoes, as they are often attracted to hot skin.

- Using a mosquito net to cover you when sleeping

If you have recently travelled back from an area where the disease is transmitted and feel unwell, it is highly advised to seek the help of your GP.

More information on Zika Virus can be found on the NHS page - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/zika-virus/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Don’t forget, you can get your travel insurance from DirectTravel at either www.direct-travel.co.uk or ring our friendly team on 0330 880 3600.