The Zika virus - a mosquito-borne disease - is believed to be causing infected expectant-mothers to bear children with birth defects.

The disease has spread at an alarming rate in South America over the past year - and, currently, there's no specific anti-viral treatment is available for the ZIKV infection.

But where have cases of the disease been reported? Outbreaks of the Zika virus have been logged in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.

At the end of last year, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed Zika virus case and Brazil's health ministry confirmed there have been 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly - babies born with abnormally small heads - since October.

ZIKV does not occur naturally in the UK, it's reported. And as of 18 January, just three cases associated with travel to Colombia, Suriname and Guyana have been diagnosed in UK travellers.

Foreign travel advice from Gov.uk reads: "Cases of Zika virus have been reported in 2015 and 2016.

"You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre, particularly if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and seek advice from a health professional."

Public Health England (PHE) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) told Express.co.uk they are, "aware of a Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak in South and Central America and the Caribbean".

The statement adds: "In October 2015, the Brazilian Ministry of Health reported an unusual increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly and has suggested a possible link between the increase in microcephaly and the ongoing ZIKV outbreak.

"PHE and NaTHNaC have been carefully monitoring this situation and as a precaution, travel advice for pregnant women has been updated."

Dr Dipti Patel, director at NaTHNaC said: “All travellers, especially pregnant women going to the Americas should ensure they seek travel health advice from their GP or a travel clinic well in advance of their trip and consult the NaTHNaC website for up to date information on current outbreaks and country information.

“We strongly advise all travellers to avoid mosquito bites and urge pregnant women to consider avoiding travel to areas where ZIKV outbreaks are currently reported."

He added: "If travel is unavoidable, or they live in areas where ZIKV is reported, they should take scrupulous insect bite avoidance measures both during daytime and night time hours.

"Women who are planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess the risk of infection with ZIKV and receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures.

"Tailored advice for pregnancy and travel is available at NaTHNaC’s website.”

Source: express.co.uk