Two confirmed cases of Zika virus in Ireland

Two confirmed cases of Zika virus in Ireland

Two cases of the dangerous Zika virus have been detected in Ireland.

The virus, which is ravaging South America has been linked to birth defects in children born to mothers infected while pregnant.

It causes symptoms including rash, fever, conjunctivitis and headaches.

Reports indicate that the cases concern a man and a woman, and that the woman is past child-bearing age.

It is understood the pair recently returned to Ireland from overseas.

It has not yet been confirmed where they travelled to, or where they are receiving treatment.

"The HSE was informed today of two unrelated cases of Zika virus infection in two adults who are currently well and fully recovered," the HSE said in a statement.

"Both individuals have a history of travel to a Zika affected country. These are the first cases of Zika virus infection confirmed in Ireland. Neither case is at risk of pregnancy.

"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. Currently, outbreaks of Zika virus are occurring in some countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

"Infection when it occurs usually results in a mild illness that typically lasts between 2 to 7 days. The majority of people who become infected by Zika virus have no symptoms. Zika virus is spread through the bite of a mosquito that is in certain countries but which is not present in Ireland.

"While almost all cases of Zika virus are acquired via mosquito bites, one case of sexual transmission of Zika virus has been reported internationally, however the risk of sexual transmission of Zika virus is thought to be extremely low."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, with Zika now spreading "explosively" in Latin America.

More than 4,000 children have now been born with microcephaly in Brazil as a result of the Zika outbreak.

Microcephaly causes the child to be born with an underdeveloped brain.