The Zika Virus

In 2016, there were five confirmed imported (travel-related) cases of Zika virus  detected in Bermuda. Given that we have a population that travels frequently, imported cases remain likely to occur, however there have been no reported cases since 2016.  There is no known local transmission of Zika virus in Bermuda. This page will be updated if further travel-related cases or local transmission is confirmed in Bermuda. 

Zika is a mosquito-borne infection caused by Zika virus Most persons with Zika have a mild illness, but there is a possibility of harm to unborn babies whose mothers are infected with Zika during, or prior to, pregnancy. Currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for Zika. The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites in affected countries. Here you can find the countries affected by Zika

How could I get Zika?

Zika virus is passed on by the bite of an infected female Aedes mosquito, most commonly Aedes aegypti. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not present in Bermuda. Other species of Aedes mosquitoes may also have the potential to transmit this virus and Aedes aelbopictus is present in Bermuda. The Department of Health’s Vector Control Programme monitors the mosquito population and gets rid of mosquito-breeding sites to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases.

When travelling in areas affected by Zika, it is important to reduce your risk of being bitten by a mosquito. This can be done by: 

  • using insect repellent

  •  wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible

  • using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows and/or sleeping under mosquito nets 

While almost all cases of Zika are passed through mosquito bites, a small number of cases have occurred through sexual transmission and there is a possibility that it can be passed from pregnant mother to unborn baby. Transmission of Zika may also occur during blood transfusions. Measures are in place to safeguard Bermuda’s blood supply.  

What are the symptoms of Zika virus infection?

After an infected mosquito bites a human, the first symptoms of Zika can develop in 3 to 12 days but it can be shorter or longer in some people. The majority of people infected with Zika virus have no symptoms. For those with symptoms, Zika tends to be mild and short-lived (2 to 7 days). Symptoms include:

  • a low fever

  • joint pain (with possible swelling mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet)

  • rash, which may be  itchy

  • conjunctivitis or red eyes

  • headache

  • muscle pain

  • eye pain

The symptoms of Zika are similar to dengue or chikungunya. The risks for dengue and chikungunya are also similar. Laboratory testing is required for the correct diagnosis.

What should I do if I have Zika?

See your healthcare provider if you feel that you may have Zika. This is especially important for pregnant women.  Your healthcare provider may order specialized blood tests to look for Zika or other similar viruses like dengue or chikungunya. Your healthcare provider will also inform the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU). The ESU will investigate and work with Vector Control to put control measures in place, as necessary.

If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites for the first week of your illness. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.

What is the treatment for Zika?

There is no vaccine to prevent or specific medicine to treat Zika infection. The symptoms may be treated:

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.

  • Take medicine as directed by your healthcare provider to relieve fever and pain.

  • Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

  • If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

Is there additional advice for pregnant women?

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take extra care to protect themselves from mosquito bites. This may include postponing or avoiding travel to areas affected by Zika. Pregnant women who travel to areas affected by Zika should mention this during their prenatal check-ups.

Can I be tested for Zika Virus even if I don’t have symptoms?

Currently, in Bermuda, testing for returning travelers from one of the affected countries, or others at risk, is available for persons presenting with acute signs and symptoms of Zika virus infection.
These diagnostic tests were developed for use on patients who have recovered from, or are acutely unwell with, Zika virus infection and may not be reliable for persons without symptoms.

How can I protect others when I return from a country where there is Zika Virus?

Zika virus can be passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.

Because the illness is usually mild and many people will not have symptoms at all, travelers might not realize that they have been infected. Therefore, even if you do not feel sick, persons returning to Bermuda from an area affected by Zika should continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites on return for at least 3 weeks.
It may be possible for a man to carry Zika and give it to his partner(s) through sex, even when he does not have symptoms, or know that he is infected. If a  women’s male sexual partner has traveled to a country with ongoing Zika transmission, to prevent getting Zika through sex, the couple should use a condom correctly and consistently for all forms of sexual contact or not have sex during the rest of the pregnancy. To find out more information:
Take steps to reduce mosquito breeding on your property. Mosquitoes can breed in the smallest amount of water, so to minimize the risk of mosquito breeding, ensure that any object that can collect water is emptied. Empty all standing water around your property.

What is Bermuda doing to prevent transmission of Zika?

Suspected and confirmed cases of Zika are reportable to the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, who will investigate and put control measures in place to prevent ongoing transmission.
The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, within the Ministry of Health, routinely monitors for increases in reported syndromes such as “Fever and Rash “, as an indicator for mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika. Any increase in reports of symptoms suggestive of Zika would be investigated to determine the cause.
The Vector Control Section of the Environmental Health Department works diligently to monitor mosquito distribution and eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
Ongoing monitoring for ill travelers continues at the LF Wade International Airport in collaboration with Customs and Immigration.