BPSU - Congenital Zika Syndrome

Surveillance of congenital Zika syndrome in infants under and including six months of age in the UK and ROI commenced in April 2016. This study aims to identify all babies with microcephaly or neurological abnormalities born in the UK and ROI to mothers who have travelled to countries with active Zika transmission.

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Lead investigator

Professor Richard Pebody

Dr Richard Pebody
Head of the Respiratory Diseases Department,
Public Health England,
61 Colindale Avenue,
London NW9 5EQ

Project coordinator

Dr Clarissa Oeser
Emerging Infections and Zoonoses,
Public Health England,
61 Colindale Avenue,
London NW9 5EQ

Email: clarissa.oeser@phe.gov.uk


Microcephaly and neurological abnormalities in neonates can have multiple causes, one of them being congenital infections. These conditions can have significant consequences for the baby’s future development. 

Microcephaly itself is a rare condition, but in Brazil over the last year many more cases of microcephaly and also other abnormalities of the brain have been seen than would be expected. There is significant concern from health care professionals across the world that this rise is due to increased rates of infection with the Zika virus in women during pregnancy over the same time period. Zika virus infections have been reported from Brazil since early 2015 and since then, the virus has spread and many more countries and territories are now reporting infections worldwide. 

Every year a large number of UK residents travel to countries that have been recently affected by Zika. Pregnant travellers are at risk of acquiring Zika virus infection which may then affect their unborn baby.

Case definition

Please report all infants ≤ 12 months of age with a head circumference > 2 standard deviations below the mean for gestational age and sex (i.e. below the 2nd centile) or any neurological abnormality requiring investigation whose mother has travelled to a country with active Zika transmission during pregnancy or in the three months prior to conception. 

Exclusion criteria:

Travel only to countries without reported Zika transmission (Please check on: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/zika_virus_infection/zika-outbreak/Pages/Zika-transmission-past-9-months.aspx)


April 2016 to April 2018 (25 months of surveillance). Follow-up until April 2019 (12 month follow-up).


This study is being funded through Public Health England

Ethical approval

Public Health England has approval under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 to process confidential patient information for public health purposes. See The Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002.

Support group

Further information