The Zika virus has been all over worldwide news recently, with U.S. researchers urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) to take action against the virus. Transmitted by the mosquito Aedes albopictus, Zika has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, and continues to spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.1 But what about the effect of Zika outside the Americas? Out partners at VIVA! shared their thoughts on the potential for the virus to spread to Australia.
What about Australia?
There is genuine potential for the Zika virus to spread to Australia through travellers returning from the Americas. Fortunately, however, there is a plan of action should the outbreak occur here. Dr Cameron Webb, a clinical lecturer at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research at the University of Sydney said, “If there was an outbreak, local health authorities would try to kill the mosquitoes and their eggs in the affected area quickly, while infected people would be isolated to limit the spread of their blood by other mosquitoes.”2
Dr Webb noted the Brazil outbreak highlighted the importance of Australia’s efforts to keep exotic mosquitoes out of the country, particularly Aedes albopictus or the Asian tiger mosquito, which is also capable of transmitting Zika.2 As the climate changes and becomes warmer, there is greater potential for the Asian tiger mosquito to establish itself in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
Associate Professor Nigel Beebe from the University of Queensland has recently been quoted as saying “to prevent this species and others from entering Australia, there were traps designed to catch them within 400 metres of every Australian port.” When foreign species are caught in these traps, scientists are typically able to examine the species and their eggs, and determine their origin.2 Scientists can then use this information to inform health, agriculture and travel authorities 2
The Department of Foreign Trade and Affairs is advising pregnant women to avoid travel in areas where Zika is active. The Federal Government is also requesting Australian doctors to look out for signs of Zika infection in travellers returning from affected areas. A government spokeswoman said Australian laboratories could diagnose the virus if required. Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2016.2
What actions are being taken in your country to protect against Zika? Post a comment or tweet at us to let us know.
Want a more in depth analysis of the Zika situation in Australia? Take a look at the VIVA! blog.
- Caught off-guard by Zika, Brazil struggles with deformed babies. Reuters, 28, January, 2016. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-zika-brazil-idUSKCN0V52F4
- Australia, the Zika virus and why we need to keep exotic mosquitoes out. The Sydney Morning Herald, 29, January, 2016. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/zika-virus-set-to-reach-australia-but-can-be-contained-swiftly-say-experts-20160129-gmgydw.html