Zika virus: Information for FIP congress participants

 

On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization announced that a recent cluster of neurological disorders and neonatal malformations reported in the Americas region constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern”.

The WHO International Health Regulation Emergency Committee agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, but not yet scientifically proven.

Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. Spread by Aedes mosquitoes, Zika virus disease has a likely incubation period of a few days to a week. Only about one in five people infected with the virus become ill, usually with mild symptoms, such as fever and joint pain, which may last for up to a week. Severe disease requiring hospital admission is rare. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact has been reported. The virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days.

Since its discovery, outbreaks of Zika have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. The latest outbreak in South America has led some national governments to issue precautionary warnings to pregnant women planning to travel to certain countries. However, Argentina is not among the countries over which warnings have been issued.

Further, the WHO expert committee found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus and says that the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals.

According to Argentina’s latest Bulletin Integrated Surveillance National Health Portfolio there has been no virus reported in the country. The safety of our congress participants is our priority and we have been assessing the situation. Our hosts report that the city of Buenos Aires has already been taking the precautionary measure of deploying fumigation brigades in an effort to control the Aedes mosquito. However, they also point out that in August and September — the time of the FIP congress — it will be winter/spring in Argentina and, therefore, not mosquito season.

Although Zika poses little risk to most people, together with our host committee, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and advise on any developments. Preparations for FIP Buenos Aires 2016 continue.


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