(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
The European Region of the World Health Organization published on Wednesday an announcement that Israel is one of 17 countries that have a “moderate risk” of the Zika virus arriving via mosquitoes.
The virus, which can cause health problems in fetuses of pregnant women bitten by such a mosquito, could spread here because mosquitoes with the potential of receiving transmission exist in the country; because of the high rate of urbanization and population density; and because of Israel’s widespread airline and ship connections with other countries.
Until now, the Health Ministry, which released the statement from the WHO, had said Israel has a low risk of infection. It now reiterates that pregnant women should not travel to the Third World, but has not given specific instructions on what pregnant women in Israel should do if the virus arrives here.
The Zika infection is not considered to be dangerous, except when a pregnant mother is bitten, in which case there can be birth defects. The ministry advised those who are concerned to go to its website at www.health.gov.il/Subjects/ disease/zika/Pages/default.aspx.
The previous instructions were that women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy in the near future should consider postponing travel to areas where the virus has already spread. This recommendation does not apply to those scheduled to stay at high altitudes, 2,000 meters or higher above sea level.
Travelers to countries with active transmission of the virus should use mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved light clothing, long pants and a hat.
In high-risk countries, keep windows and doors closed, spray mosquito repellent and sleep under mosquito netting.
A woman visiting high-risk countries should avoid having a baby during her visit and for eight weeks after her return.
Men who visit these countries should avoid sex or use a condom for six months from the last possible exposure.
The Health and Environmental Protection ministries are watching the situation carefully.