Denmark and Switzerland today joined a growing number of European countries to report Zika infections in tourists returning from Latin America, where the mosquito-borne virus has been blamed for a surge in birth defects.
“A Danish tourist who travelled to Central and South America was diagnosed on his return with the Zika virus,” a hospital in eastern Denmark said in a statement late yesterday.
The Danish patient was a young man who was expected to make a full recovery, the head of Aarhus hospital, Lars Ostergaard, told public broadcaster DR.
Two people returning from Haiti and Colombia to Switzerland were also diagnosed with the virus, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health said. Neither was pregnant and neither required hospital care, the statement said.
A woman in the Swedish capital Stockholm was diagnosed with the virus in July 2015, the Swedish Public Health Agency confirmed today.
“The symptoms were treated and the woman recovered,” said Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of microbiology at the health agency.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika, a flu-like disease with a rash that goes unnoticed in 70 to 80 per cent of cases. Most patients treat the symptoms simply with painkillers and other medication.
Britain has reported five cases in travellers returning from South America since last year while the Netherlands has confirmed 10 cases, also in people returning from the region.
The virus was first reported in Africa, Asia and the Pacific before leaping to the Americas, where it has been linked to a jump in the number of babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, particularly in Brazil.
The number of cases of the deformity in Brazil surged from 163 per year on average to 3,893 after the Zika outbreak began last year. Forty-nine of the babies have died.
Some 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries have been swept up in the outbreak which has extended as far north as Mexico.
Travelers have also brought it back to the US states of Florida, Hawaii and New York.
The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
So far there has been no known cases of local transmission in the US or Europe.