Six Cases of Israelis Contracting Zika in Thailand Found

Israeli researchers note the sudden increase in cases from South Asia as opposed to South America, which saw an endemic in 2014

Ido Efrati
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Tourists relax on the beaches of Thailand.
Tourists relax on the beaches of Thailand. Credit: \ POST TODAY / AFP
Ido Efrati

Six Israelis have contracted Zika virus in the past six months while visiting Thailand, a dramatic increase from two cases since 2016, Israeli doctors reported in the Journal of Travel Medicine.

The popular destination takes in about 35.6 million tourists a year, according to 2017 figures. The Journal of Travel Medicine report, published in August, notes that four cases of Zika in Thailand have been recorded since February 2017.  Since the report was published, two additional cases were recorded.  

According to Prof. Eli Schwartz, head of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at the Sheba Medical Center and other experts who contributed to the report, since the 2014 Zika endemic in South America, a total of about 40 Israelis have contracted the illness.

"Most of the infections by Israelis so far have been in the South American region where the outbreak began. But in the last six months, we are suddenly seeing a lot of adherence from Thailand to Israeli travelers returning from popular places, such as Ko Pha-ngan, Phuket and Ko Samui,” Schwartz says.

Thailand is not the only country in East Asia that has experienced a resurgence of the virus. This week three cases were reported in Singapore and ten cases have been recorded since the beginning of the year.

Zika is transmitted by mosquito bites (Aedes mosquitos) and can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby or through sexual contact and blood transfusions. After contracting the infection, there is an incubation period that can last from three to 12 days. The disease is generally mild and lasts several days to a week, usually passing without complications. Severe illness requiring hospitalization is rare and the mortality rate is low.

But greater health risks concern pregnant women, due to the fact that infection during pregnancy can cause severe neurological abnormalities, including fetal microcephaly - a syndrome characterized by a small head size of the baby.