THE ZIKA virus is expected to spread to Europe this summer, possibly putting UK holidaymakers at risk.
Health officials said yesterday they fear the mosquito-borne disease – linked to abnormalities in babies born to infected mothers – will hit large areas of the continent in the coming months.
The island of Madeira and the Black Sea’s north coast are tipped as the highest danger spots.
But many other popular holiday destinations including France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey may also be affected.
A total of 18 European countries are officially at “moderate” risk from the outbreak which began in Brazil last year.
Britain and 35 other European nations are considered at low or no risk because they are not breeding grounds for the Aedes mosquitoes which spread infection.
Issuing the alert, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab of the World Health Organisation said: “New evidence tells us there is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European region.
“We want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk.”
The Association of British Travel Agents advised pregnant women to avoid visiting areas which have “active transmission” of Zika until after their babies are born.
If the virus does spread to France there will be concerns for supporters travelling to the Euro 2016 soccer championships.
Health officials have already had to consider the impact of the virus in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The most recent figures show 23 British travellers have been infected after visiting affected regions.