Midwives should discuss the implications of the Zika virus to pregnant women planning to travel to areas of the world where cases have been reported.
A spokesperson for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said that midwives can raise awareness of the risks and would ‘advise any pregnant woman who has recently travelled to Zika-affected countries to contact their midwife, obstetrician or GP on return to the UK.’
The Zika virus is linked to occurrences of microcephaly, where babies are born with small heads which can be due to abnormal brain development. Other symptoms of the virus include fever, joint pain, rashes, and muscle and eye pain. As of 9 January, the Brazilian Ministry of Health had reported 3530 cases of microcephaly. The increased rates of microcephaly started within nine months of the onset of Zika in Brazil, leading its Ministry of Health to link the two.
The RCM said: ‘We would also advise pregnant women to carefully consider travel plans to the Americas.’
The outbreak started in Northern Brazil and has since spread to over 20 countries in the region including Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala.
Dr Hilary Kirkbride, travel and migrant health expert at PHE, said since the start of the outbreak in 2015, five UK travellers have been diagnosed with Zika virus.
The WHO has just set up an emergency team to discuss whether the rapid spread of the virus should be treated in the same way as the Ebola epidemic last year.