Health and Medicine

Zika & Rio – ‘Precaution best protection’ on return

Minister for Health Sussan Ley is reminding Australians heading home from the Rio Olympic Games to be conscious of Zika virus and exercise “precaution as the best protection”.

Ms Ley said Australia was well-positioned to deal with the threat of mosquitoes that spread diseases like Zika, with a range of measures in place at first points of entry such as air and seaports.

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is only found in certain parts of northern, central and south west Queensland, with the Turnbull Government providing an additional $1 million to the Queensland Government to increasing spraying and other preventative measures in these regions.

However, Ms Ley said that while Zika was usually spread by mosquitoes, there was a low risk it could be transmitted person-to-person through sexual activity and encouraged Australians returning from Brazil to be “conscious and cautious” about their potential exposure to the virus.

“If you’ve recently visited Rio for the Olympics, chances are you could have been bitten by a mosquito,” Ms Ley said.

“This is no cause for alarm, but there are some simple tips the Australian Government has developed to help identify symptoms of the virus and minimise its transmission.”

Ms Ley said this was important given most cases of Zika only displayed very mild flu-like symptoms or nothing at all.

“Obviously, if you’re feeling unwell on returning home from Brazil, please visit your doctor immediately and ensure you inform them of your recent travel history,” Ms Ley said.

“However, the best protection is precaution, particularly if you or your partner are pregnant or planning to try in the near future.”

There have been 44 confirmed cases of Zika virus identified in Australia this year, all acquired overseas.

The Australian Government is undertaking measures at first points of entry around Australian to minimise the risk of importation of the mosquitoes that can transmit Zika virus, including disinsection of all aircraft arriving in Australia, vector monitoring and control activities at the border, and mandatory treatments of high risk international cargoes to mitigate the risk.

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