In Latin America there has been a Zika epidemic since 2015. In the past months the media showed images of babies suffering from microcephaly. Their congenital brain anomaly is presumably caused by their mothers having been infected with the Zika virus. Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Three quarters of the people infected with the virus will not notice it. Most people who do become ill suffer from mild symptoms only, including fever, muscle pain and skin rashes. As yet the Zika virus does not seem to be harmful to most people. Currently there is no vaccine available against the Zika virus disease.
Zika and pregnancy
There are indications that infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy can be harmful to the unborn child, but as yet there is no scientific evidence for this. This is now being examined. By way of precaution the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) advises women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant not to travel to South America, because as yet only women who are pregnant or who want to become pregnant are possibly running a risk when they get infected with the virus.
Zika virus disease in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands only people who have been infected with the virus abroad have been diagnosed with Zika virus disease. So far, this has been the case with 20 people who were infected in Suriname. The Zika virus is very unlikely to spread in the Netherlands, because the mosquito that transmits the virus does not occur in the Netherlands.