Czech health minister gives assurances, advice, after first Zika cases

Svatopluk Němeček, photo: CTK

The Zika virus was first identified in humans in Nigeria in the mid-1950s and there have been minor outbreaks of the disease in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island since. But the current outbreak, which started in Brazil in April last year, spread rapidly, with the first cases reaching Europe in January this year.

Svatopluk Němeček,  photo: CTK
At a press conference on Thursday morning, Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček said the Czech Republic was ready to deal with the disease, both in terms of diagnosis and capacity of health-care facilities. He also provided details of the first two cases of Zika infection in the country:

“The cases concern tourists who returned home about two weeks ago from areas affected. The man stayed in Martinique since the end of January to mid-February and the woman was in the Dominican Republic. Both showed unspecified flu symptoms typical of the disease, including rash. They were both treated at Prague’s Bulovka hospital and the laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the virus. However, due to their good condition, both were released for home treatment.”

The test for the Zika virus is currently carried out at the National Institute of Public Health’s laboratory in Ostrava. In the near future the tests will also be available in Prague and Ústí nad Labem.

The minister stressed that there was no need to take any special preventive measures, since the infection was not airborne and the cases were imported and were unlikely to spread in the Czech Republic. The head of the hospital’s infection department, Hana Roháčová, specified what measures should be taken in case a person returns from the affected regions:

Hana Roháčová,  photo: CTK
“Luckily, Zika is not an airborne disease, but the World Health Organisation has confirmed that it is transmitted sexually. Therefore we recommend men returning from the region to have safe sex for four weeks, and those who contracted the disease for at least six months. There is no reason to carry out the tests with healthy people but pregnant women who visited the region should also undergo the test, even if they haven’t had any symptoms of the disease.”

The Health Minister has also repeated his recommendation for Czech tourists not to travel to the regions affected by the disease.