Press Release

Minister for Health Simon Harris signs Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Regulations, 2016

Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D signed the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Regulations, 2016, today.  The regulations make Zika Virus Disease a notifiable disease in Ireland and require the statutory notification of cases of the disease.

This information is used to investigate cases thus preventing spread of infection and further cases. It will also facilitate the early identification of possible outbreaks of the disease.

The response is being coordinated at a national level by the Health Threats Coordination Group. A Zika Virus Scientific Advisory Subcommittee has been established by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre which has issued specific advice regarding Zika virus to health professionals and other relevant groups.

Environmental conditions in Ireland however do not support the natural reservoirs or vectors of the Zika virus. Consequently, the risk of onward transmission of the disease in Ireland is considered low.

However, Irish people travelling in countries where Zika virus disease is present should seek appropriate advices prior to travel and take appropriate precautions against infection when abroad.
The Minister in welcoming these Regulations stated “I would like to emphasise that we take the public health threat of Zika virus disease seriously. The signing into law of this amendment to the Infectious Diseases Regulations making Zika virus disease a notifiable disease is evidence of my determination to take appropriate actions for the protection of the people in Ireland”.

ENDS

Note for Editors:

Zika Virus Disease is a viral infection usually causing a mild illness that typically lasts between 2 to 7 days. Approximately 80% of people who become infected by Zika virus have no symptoms.

Infection with Zika virus has been strongly linked with a serious birth defect known as microcephaly. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly and may be associated with developmental delay. In addition, the link between Zika virus disease and  Guillain-Barré  Syndrome is  also being studied.

On 1 February 2016, the WHO Director-General declared that recent clusters of cases of microcephaly and neurological disorders associated with Zika virus disease constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulations (2005).

The response to the Zika Virus Disease PHEIC has drawn on the structures put in place and the experience gained from the Ebola response. The Health Threats Coordination Group discussed Zika Virus Disease, including the health service response and cross-sectoral coordination, at its meeting in February 2016 and it is on the agenda for the next meeting later this month.

A Zika Virus Scientific Advisory Subcommittee has been established by the HPSC to advise on Zika related matters in the Irish setting. The HPSC has issued specific advice regarding Zika virus to health professionals and other relevant groups. Diagnostic tests for ZIKAV are carried out in National Virus Reference Laboratory in Dublin.

Environmental conditions in Ireland however do not support the natural reservoirs or vectors of the Zika virus (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes). Consequently, the risk of onward transmission of ZIKAV in Ireland is considered low. However, the risk to Irish people travelling in countries, where Zika virus disease is present is the main concern.

Further information and health advices are available on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre website and travel advices are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.