UK expands travel warning over Zika virus risk

Written by Tania Delgado, CNN

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has expanded its international travel warning for several countries, citing the increased risk of falling sick after the Brexit-era arrival of the sub-tropical mosquito known as the Aedes aegypti.

The region originally named as “high” risk until last year was named as “moderate” risk, with the others showing a significant increase in “risks” over the previous year.

Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the Seychelles were all referred to as “high risk” during the FCO’s latest travel warning update published on February 21.

As a result, more than one million travelers have now been warned of the potential risk of dengue fever and Zika infection.

The alert adds that “all areas were at high risk” following the 2015 introduction of the Seychelles’ dengue vaccine.

Now there are more than 1.5 million non-immune cases of Zika reported in the region since 2015, according to data from the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

Dengue fever is known as the “breakout disease” of Latin America, with over 400 million cases annually in the region, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus infects an estimated 200 million people around the world each year, according to the World Health Organization, and is contracted by up to 80% of those exposed to it.

The infected mosquito breeds in infected water including rice paddies and patios, creating an environment ripe for mosquito-borne disease.

“Multiple dengue cases occur in one person’s blood stream but the vast majority of people who become infected never show any symptoms,” the UK’s public health agency NHS said in 2017.

“Dengue virus infects 20 percent of people who are exposed to the virus, causing illness for less than one in 100 people who are infected,” the report continued.

“There is no specific treatment for dengue or vaccine for dengue. Dengue illness is characterized by fever, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, and rash, which may occur with or without a rash. Many people recover from the disease on their own, without long-term problems.”

In addition to the newest areas to be listed as “high risk,” the old categories remain unchanged as are:

“elevated risks” (countries have a moderate risk).

“urgent” (countries have a very high risk).

“high” (countries have an elevated risk but still have an “urgent” risk).

“medium” (countries have a “high” but “emerging” risk).

“very high” (countries have a “very high” risk but not an “emerging” risk).

“moderate” (countries have a “moderate” risk).

“low” (countries have a “low” risk).

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