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Please see our Insight of 7 March 2017 for the latest position.

Updated 29 March 2016
In response to a widening geographical distribution of Zika virus, South Korea requires vessels coming from countries with reported Zika virus transmissions to be disinfected.

Gard’s correspondents in South Korea advise that the country has strengthened its quarantine inspection requirements in an attempt to avoid introducing the Zika virus via seagoing vessels. The Korean National Quarantine Station (NQS) has issued special arrival instructions for vessels that have called at countries with reported Zika virus transmissions and the requirements depend on the time elapsed since the vessel’s last visit to affected countries:

  • Vessels that have called at one of the affected countries within 30 days prior to arriving in South Korea must be disinfected and submit a self-disinfection certificate to the NQS prior to arrival; otherwise the vessel will be instructed to disinfect prior to starting cargo operations.
  • Vessels that have called at one of the affected countries within 14 days prior to arriving in South Korea will be subject to a sanitary inspection by quarantine officers - even if the required self-disinfection certificate has been submitted. Such vessels are also required to be particularly vigilant when dealing with any illness on board and the crew (and passengers) on these ships may be asked to complete a health questionnaire to be submitted to the quarantine officer.

A list of affected countries, that is, countries with reported Zika virus transmissions, has been produced by the NQS, but is subject to change in accordance with any widening of the geographical distribution of Zika virus. See Hyopsung Surveyors’ circular of 23 March 2016 for additional details.

 

Zika virus situation report

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) situation report of 24 March 2016, the geographical distribution of Zika virus has steadily widened since the virus was first detected in the Americas in 2014. Zika virus transmission has been documented in a total of 61 countries and territories, and five countries, namely the United States, France, Italy, New Zealand and Argentina, have reported locally acquired infections in the absence of any known mosquito vectors, probably through sexual transmissions. Click here to access WHO’s Zika virus situation reports.

Although most people infected with the disease will have no symptoms, or only a slight fever and rash lasting from 2 to 7 days, the WHO is concerned about the observation of an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome which coincided with Zika virus infections in the general public, as well as an increase in babies born with microcephaly (primarily in northeast Brazil).

It is worth noting that the WHO Director-General on 8 March 2016 stated that “reports and investigations from several countries strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed”. The WHO, therefore, highlights the importance of making available information on the risk of sexual transmission of the Zika virus and the following travel measures are now advised:

WHO travel advise:

  • There should be no general restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission.
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  • Pregnant women should be advised not travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus outbreaks; pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks should ensure safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy.
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  • Travellers to areas with Zika virus outbreaks should be provided with up to date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to        mosquito bites and, upon return, should take appropriate measures, including safe sex, to reduce the risk of onward transmission.

Source: WHO statement on the 2nd meeting of IHR Emergency   Committee on Zika virus, 8 March 2016

 

Recommendations

Members and clients with vessels calling at ports in areas with reported Zika virus transmission are advised obtain information from local authorities that may apply to vessels and their movements, e.g. similar to the above mentioned vessel disinfection requirements in South Korea.

In addition, we recommend to:

  • monitor the situation by consulting webpages maintained by the WHO and other public health authorities;
  • evaluate the risks present in the ports to be visited, consider travel advice from the WHO and public health authorities, the length of a stay, e.g. time spent at sea, in port, on rivers, etc., as well as planned shore leave by the crew;
  • ensure crews are properly informed and alerted to how the virus is transmitted, its symptoms and treatment; and
  • be particularly vigilant when dealing with any illness on board.

 

Further information

Additional resources to help answer questions from our Members and clients include:

Gard

World Health Organization (WHO)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

Public Health England (GOV.UK)

We are grateful to Gard’s correspondents in South Korea, KOMOS Marine, Oil Pollution Surveyors & Adjusters Co., Ltd. and Hyopsung Shipping Corporation, for their assistance in preparing this alert.