Warning for shipowners over Zika transmission

A video and companion digital workbook on the dangers of the Zika virus has been released by Videotel. It warns fleet owners, shipmanagers and masters that they are responsible for taking measures to prevent the Zika virus from being spread, as well as for protecting everyone onboard.

Zika Virus – Staying Safe, produced by Videotel, a KVH company, explains the dangers of the virus and how to help prevent its spread. The new, 13-minute safety and training video and companion workbook, free to mariners, was produced with assistance from the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and a panel of medical experts. KVH also multicast the training video recently to its IP-MobileCast customers on vessels across the globe for immediate viewing onboard.

The mosquito-transmitted infection has become an international public health emergency, with cases now being reported in some parts of Florida. Although 80% of victims show no symptoms, and those who do tend to develop a fever, rash, bloodshot eyes, headaches and joint pain, the main concern is that the disease is known to cause birth defects. As yet there no specific treatment or vaccine available.

Transmission is predominantly through bites from an Aedes species mosquito. It is also possible to spread the virus through blood transfusions and through sexual contact.

The chance of ships’ crews or passengers spreading the disease to their home country is low, because the disease has a short incubation period and there are few Aedes mosquitoes – the main transmitters of the virus — in more temperate countries.

However, the article warns that that some cargoes, particularly used tires and ornamental plants, can carry invasive mosquito species. Female mosquitoes can live for several weeks and their eggs can hibernate for months at low temperatures as long as they don’t dry out. Implementation of an integrated pest management plan to avoid passive transportation of virus-infected mosquitoes by ports and ships is recommended. Measures such as keeping tires dry and spraying cut ornamental plants with insecticide can prevent the spread of the virus.

The Zika virus usually remains live in the blood of an infected person for about a week. Flu-like symptoms last for two to seven days, with incubation being between a three to seven days.

During the first period of infection the virus can be passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. However the Aedes mosquito usually travels no more than 1,200ft in its lifetime. People, rather than the insects, are responsible for the rapid spread of the virus.