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As the Scottish government revealed yesterday (August 4) that a number of people in Scotland have been diagnosed as having the Zika virus, a highly respected GP has warned that holidays to Florida could pose as much of a threat to health as a trip to the Olympics.

Dr Sheila O’Neill, one of only two private GPs in the Glasgow city centre, pointed out that nearly two million British tourists – a large proportion of them Scots – visit the southern US state every year, compared to the relatively small numbers attending the Games in Brazil.

Dr O’Neill’s warning came as health officials at Holyrood disclosed that an undisclosed number of cases had occurred in Scotland, though they stressed that the Aedes mosquito responsible for the outbreak could not survive in the Scottish climate.

The virus has been associated with more than 1800 cases of a  birth defect called microcephaly, which results in children being born with abnormally small heads and brain damage. Pregnant women have been advised to avoid affected areas.

Dr O’Neill, who has recently opened the Glasgow Medical Rooms in St Vincent Street in Glasgow, has already posted comprehensive advice and guidance about the infection on her website

She said: “I know that there have been serious concerns about the situation in Brazil, where the Zika outbreak originated. But the number of Scots and British tourists travelling to holiday hotspots such as Disneyland in Florida is much greater.

“US officials have issued a new advisory saying pregnant women should not visit at the moment and the state governor, Rick Scott, has said there are a number of new infections, particularly in Miami-Dade County, which they believe are active transmissions.

“The virus has now manifested itself widely in South and Central America and the Caribbean and experts are predicting that it will spread to all countries in the Americas with the exceptions of Canada and Chile.”

At the moment, pregnant women are being advised to avoid non-essential travel to Brazil particularly and affected countries generally, and women of child-bearing age should be assiduous in the practice of bite avoidance.

As well as mother-to-child and blood transfusion transmission, there is evidence that Zika can be transmitted sexually and couples in Zika areas should use condoms during travel and for eight weeks afterwards.

For further information about Glasgow Medical Rooms, contact Dr Sheila O’Neill, on 0141 225 0140 or click here.

A version of this story appeared here: