Zika Virus Confirmed in 'Small Number' of Scottish Patients

Zika virus
A doctor performs physical therapy on an infant born with microcephaly, in Recife, Brazil, June 2. Mario Tama/Getty

Five people in Scotland have been diagnosed as having the Zika virus, it has been confirmed.

The Scottish government said the disease, which has sparked a major health alert in South America, did "not pose a public health risk" in Scotland.

It is understood that no more than five Scottish cases have been detected, the Scottish Daily Record has reported.

More than 50 people across the U.K. have been treated for the infection, which is associated with a birth defect called microcephaly. The defect results in children being born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We can assure the public that Zika does not pose a public health risk in Scotland, and of the cases identified in the UK a very small number have been found in Scotland.

"The mosquito that spreads the virus is not found in the U.K., and in any case would not be able to establish in Scotland because of our climate. Zika cannot be spread through person-to-person or airborne contact.

"We have already informed the at-risk groups about the risks and how to protect themselves through Health Protection Scotland's travel advice. We continue to closely monitor developments in our understanding of the Zika virus as treatments and testing regimes develop."

Since the Zika epidemic began in 2015, nearly 5,000 cases of microcephaly have been recorded in affected regions.

In February 2016 the World Health Organisation declared the epidemic an international public health emergency.