Zika could spread to Europe by summer, say experts

the zika virus is expected to spread to parts of Europe in late spring and summer, health leaders have said.

Zika virus could spread to Europe, say health experts

Many top holiday spots have been identified as having a “moderate” risk, including France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Switzerland.

But official advice for UK travellers remains unchanged.

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If the virus spreads to France, there could be implications for the impending Euro 2016 championships. Thousands of supporters from across the UK will travel to France for the tournament, which begins on June 10.

Zika virus could spread to Europe, say health experts

Health officials have already been forced to consider the impact of the virus in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged pregnant women not to travel to the area and issued advice for athletes and visitors.

A third of countries in Europe and surrounding regions have a “moderate” risk of a Zika outbreak, according to the latest WHO risk assessment.

While the UK is deemed to be “low” risk, global health chiefs have urged preparedness.

Zika virus could spread to Europe, say health experts

Officials should continue to be alert to detect imported cases early and provide public health advice to travellers, the WHO said. The overall risk across Europe is said to be “low to moderate”.

The WHO said risk varies across the continent and is higher where the mosquito that carries the virus is present.

The likelihood of local Zika virus transmission, if no measures are taken to mitigate the threat, is moderate in 18 countries in Europe.

The risk is high on the island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea.

Thirty-six countries - or 66 per cent - have a low risk, very low risk or no likelihood, owing to the absence of Aedes mosquitoes or suitable climatic conditions for their establishment.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “The new evidence published today tells us that there is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European region and that this risk varies from country to country.

“With this risk assessment, we at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk.”

Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, said: “Public Health England is monitoring the international situation closely and the risk to the UK remains unchanged.”

The most recent figures show that 23 UK travellers have been infected after visiting affected regions.

The majority of those infected with Zika will have no symptoms, but for others it can cause a mild illness with symptoms including a rash, fever and headache. Serious complications that arise from infection are not common.