Maltese patient infected with Zika virus

Maltese man tests positive for Zika virus, following trip to South Pacific islands

A Maltese man has tested positive for Zika virus, after returning to Malta from a trip to the South Pacific islands, Parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne announced the news during a press conference earlier today.

The man, 32,  is being kept in isolation at his own residence and he is expected to be released in a week.

Fearne explained that the man contracted the virus on 29th January, but that he immediately called the doctor when he ran a fever, and cut short his visit, returning to Malta on 3rd February.

The man returned to Malta via Dubai once the fever had subsided, but it was ascertained that he posed no risk to other passengers.

According to health authorities, this is not cause for alarm because his fever had dropped significantly and because the virus is non-communicable, and can be transmitted by means of a particular mosquito.

Fearne reassured that the government was taking all the necessary precautions and that an inter-ministerial committee had been set up to monitor the spread of the virus in Malta, with the first meeting being held tomorrow morning.

"A helpline for people who have any concerns and questions about the virus, has also been set up and it will be open on a 24 hour basis, seven days a week," he said, inviting people to call 21324086 for more information.

The viral disease is quickly spreading in the Americas and it has already left thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains, with some countries even advising women not to get pregnant.

The Zika virus is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes but also by Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are widely distributed in the Americas and hence it is likely to continue to spread. 

The infection causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache, has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America. No treatment or vaccine is available.

The Maltese health authorities said that the Aedes albopictus mosquito species is established in many parts of the European Union, primarily around the Mediterranean. However the risk of transmission of Zika virus infection is extremely low in the EU during winter season as the climatic conditions are not suitable for the activity of this mosquito. 

Fearne also stressed that those wishing to travel to the area should take the necessary precautions, including wearing clothing to cover their skin as much as possible and using insect repellants and screens as much as possible. He added that women who were possibily pregnant should avoid travelling to the area.

The World Health Organization recently declared the microcephaly condition, linked to the mosquito-borne virus, a global public health emergency, and it also advised countries not to accept blood donations from people who had travelled to Zika-affected regions.

WHO has said it could take up to nine months for experts to prove or disprove any connection between the virus and babies born with microcephal.

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