ACT News

Zika virus outbreak 'unlikely' to happen in Canberra

Health authorities in Canberra believe a potential outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the ACT is unlikely, but they have urged doctors to bolster travel advice to patients who are considering visiting affected areas. 

Three-month-old Alice Vitoria Gomes Bezerra, who has microcephaly, is held by her mother Nadja Cristina Gomes Bezerra in ...
Three-month-old Alice Vitoria Gomes Bezerra, who has microcephaly, is held by her mother Nadja Cristina Gomes Bezerra in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development.  Photo: Getty Images

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said the Zika virus did not currently pose any concern for Canberra. 

"The short answer for that is no, in terms of any possibility of local transmission of Zika virus," he said.

"If it's going to come here, it's going to be individual travellers coming back. In terms of it (Zika virus) spreading in the ACT, that's not at all likely and in fact, at the moment, probably impossible." 

Dr Kelly said the mosquito that carries the virus was not found in Canberra. 

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"Nor would we expect to [find it] because the climatic conditions are not really right for here and thank goodness for that, because it's actually an extremely difficult mosquito to eradicate once it's here," he said. 

There have been no cases of Zika virus seen in Canberra.

"If it was diagnosed by a doctor... we would know about it, but I will put a caveat on that that doctors wouldn't necessarily have thought about Zika until recently and therefore they may not have ordered the correct tests," Dr Kelly said. 

Dr Kelly sent letters this week to doctors in Canberra providing an update on the virus and asking them to provide travel advice to patients. 

"Canberrans are great travellers of course, so we are redoubling our efforts," he said. 

"That travel advice is to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible, and particularly women of child-bearing age and women who are pregnant, and then to be on the lookout for people returning from overseas who may have symptoms of Zika virus." 

The virus was declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organisation on Tuesday.

Dr Kelly advised pregnant women planning on visiting any areas affected by Zika virus to reconsider their travel "until we know more about this link with foetal abnormalities". 

Travellers are also being urged to use insect repellent and wear appropriate clothing to avoid mosquito bites. Where mosquitos are prevalent, people are advised to sleep under a bed net.