Zika virus disease epidemic: potential association with microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome – Updated risk assessment and travel advice


The European Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (ECDC) issued an updated risk assessment on 20 January 2016 about the Zika virus disease epidemic in the Americas (Central and South America and the Caribbean). It describes the potential association between Zika infection and microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. It also provides information and advice for travellers to the affected areas.

As of 1st February 2016, WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding Zika virus and the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations. 

Information to travellers and EU residents in affected areas

Visit the HPSC website for updated information on affected countries. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued travel advice to reflect these recommendations.

ECDC Advice
ECDC has advised that the following options should be considered:

  • Advise all travellers to affected areas to take individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Advise travellers that have immune disorders or severe chronic illnesses to consult their doctor or seek advice from a travel clinic before travelling.
  • Advise pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant, and who plan travel to the areas experiencing transmission of Zika virus, to discuss their travel plans with their healthcare providers and to consider postponing their travel to affected areas, especially to areas with increasing or widespread transmission. 
  • Advise EU citizens who live in areas with Zika virus transmission to take individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites. This applies particularly for pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant living in areas with increasing or widespread transmission.
  • Individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites should be applied all day long, especially during mid-morning and late afternoon to dusk, which are the periods of highest mosquito activity. 
  • Personal protection measures to avoid mosquito bites should include: 
    • Using mosquito repellents in accordance with the instructions indicated on the product label. DEET*-based repellent use is not recommended in children under three months of age.
    • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially during the hours of highest mosquito activity.
    • Using mosquito nets, impregnated or not, is essential if accommodations are not adequately screened or air-conditioned.
  • Travellers showing symptoms compatible with dengue, chikungunya or Zika virus disease within three weeks after returning from an affected area should contact their healthcare provider.
  • Pregnant women who have travelled to areas with Zika virus transmission should mention their travel during antenatal visits in order to be assessed and monitored appropriately.

HPSC endorses these recommendations.