Swedish tourist got Zika virus on visit to Brazil

A Swedish tourist was infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus on a visit to Brazil, where around 4,000 cases have been reported since November alone.

Swedish tourist got Zika virus on visit to Brazil
Mosquitoes carry the Zika virus. Photo: AP Photo/Andre Penner

International media reported on Wednesday that Europe's first case of the Zika virus was confirmed in Denmark on Tuesday. But a spokesperson for Sweden's Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) told The Local that a Swede was diagnosed with the disease as early as July 2015.

She would not disclose further details, but it is understood that the individual was never seriously ill.

“For most people this is a mild disease, compared to for example Dengue fever and suchlike,” epidemiologist Anders Wallensten told Swedish radio on Wednesday.

Doctors have however warned of a major breakout of the Zika virus in Latin America in recent months, which is now being reported throughout Central and South America and has also travelled to the United States via infected tourists. Four cases have also been confirmed in Italy, two in Spain and three in Britain.

The virus is feared to be connected to a birth disorder, microcephaly, that results in babies being born with severely undersized heads, causing serious development issues and even death.

Unlike the US, Sweden is not currently discouraging pregnant women from travelling to inflicted regions in South America, but advises that they should contact their doctor for consultation before going.

“Our assessment is that very few tourists are affected by this disease at all. It's a virus you can protect yourself from by protecting yourself from mosquitoes,” said Wallensten.

Most patients infected with the Zika virus experience fever, possible joint aches and rashes. The symptoms are usually mild and last for two to seven days.

Health workers battle the Aedes mosquito in Brazil. Photo: AP Photo/Leo Correa

The case of the Swedish tourist hit headlines in the Nordic country after it was reported on Wednesday that a Danish man who had been in South and Central America had been confirmed to carry the virus.

He came in to Aarhus University Hospital complaining of flu-like symptoms and tests carried out on Tuesday evening confirmed he was carrying the virus. He was in overall good health and was discharged from the hospital.

“It is a younger man, so it’s naturally not someone who is at risk of having problems for his foetus,” Lars Østergaard, the head of the Aarhus University Hospital’s infectious medicines department, told broadcaster DR. 

Østergaard said that because the Aedes mosquito that carries the virus isn’t found in Scandinavia, there is no major risk that Zika will spread. There have been however, two individual cases in which the virus was spread through sexual contact.