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Birth Defects (Microcephaly) in Angola

06 Dec 2017

On 1 December 2017 the World Health Organisation (WHO) Link reported 42 microcephaly cases (where babies were born with an abnormally small head) in Angola from May to 29 November 2017. Thirty-nine (93%) cases have been reported from Luanda Province, particularly in the southern part of the capital city. The others were in Zaire Province (1), Moxico Province (1) and Benguela Province (1).

These birth defects are suggestive of Zika virus infection, although there have been no positive test results for this. However, in early 2017, 2 cases of Zika virus were confirmed in Luanda Province. Health authorities have noted that the recent birth defects have occurred in areas affected by a recent yellow fever outbreak.

There is no confirmed evidence of active Zika virus transmission in Angola at present, but there is a moderate risk of Zika virus transmission. Authorities are working to improve testing, surveillance, case management and mosquito control.

Advice for Travellers

Zika virus is most commonly spread by mosquito bites, but there is also a risk of sexual transmission. There is a link between Zika virus infection and babies being born with birth defects.

  • Countries are categorised by risk of Zika virus infection by Public Health England.

  • Pregnant women should postpone non-essential travel to countries or areas with High Risk of Zika virus transmission.

  • Pregnant women should consider postponing non-essential travel to countries or areas with Moderate Risk of Zika virus transmission, such as Angola.

  • An individual risk assessment is advisable for pregnant women travelling to Low Risk countries or areas.

  • Travellers who develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return are advised to seek medical attention quickly.

Travellers to countries at High or Moderate Risk of Zika virus transmission should avoid the risk of sexual transmission by the use of contraception and condoms during travel and for: 

  • 8 weeks afterwards if female.
  • 6 months afterwards if male.