Pregnant women told not to travel to areas affected by Zika virus
The Public Health Agency has advised pregnant women in Northern Ireland to avoid travelling to areas where the Zika virus has been reported.
Outbreaks have affected a number of countries in central and south America and all travellers to the affected countries should ensure they seek travel health advice from their GP or a travel clinic well in advance of their trip, the organisation said.
A possible link between exposure to the Zika virus during pregnancy and microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby's head is smaller than expected when compared with babies of the same sex and age, and other congenital malformations has been identified and is being investigated.
Women returning from affected countries should avoid getting pregnant for 28 days.
Dr Lorraine Doherty, assistant director of public health at the PHA, said: "The PHA is working with Public Health England on monitoring the virus and we are issuing advice to healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland on appropriate actions that may need to be taken.
"At present we are not aware of any suspected or confirmed cases of Zika virus in Northern Ireland."
The Zika virus is an infection transmitted by Aedes mosquitos, which are not native to Northern Ireland so the risk to the population is extremely small, the PHA said.
Almost all cases of the virus are acquired through mosquito bites and not through human-to-human contact.
A very small number of cases have occurred through sexual transmission.