The HSE confirmed the two unrelated cases of the virus infection in two adults. Both individuals have a history of travelling to a zika-affected country and are currently well and fully recovered. Neither case is at risk of pregnancy.
The zika virus is a mosquito–borne infection which is not harmful in most cases. However, it may be harmful for pregnancies as it has been potentially linked to birth defects — specifically microcephaly — where children are born with abnormally small heads.
Infection usually results in a mild illness that typically lasts between two to seven days. The majority of people who become infected by the zika virus have no symptoms.
“The finding of zika cases in Ireland is not an unexpected event as many other European countries have reported cases as a result of travel to affected areas,” said a HSE statement. “Currently, outbreaks of the zika virus are occurring in some countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.”
While almost all cases of zika virus are acquired via mosquito bites, one case of sexual transmission of zika virus has been reported in the US. However, the HSE said the risk of sexual transmission of the virus is thought to be extremely low.
People who become ill within two weeks of returning from an affected area are advised to contact their doctor for assessment.
Meanwhile, pregnant women are being advised not to travel to Brazil during the 2016 Olympic Games to avoid potential birth defects related to the zika outbreak.