Zika virus infection: Global Update

Updated: January 23, 2017

Travel Health Notice

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy avoid travel to countries or areas in the United States with reported mosquito-borne Zika virus. 

The World Health Organization Zika situation report lists countries where there is reported mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission (countries listed under category 1 and 2 of Table 1[pdf, 224 kb).

The United States have reported cases of Zika virus infection transmitted locally by mosquitoes in the states of Florida and Texas.

All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites.  For additional recommendations please see the section below.

Zika virus infection is caused by a virus which is primarily spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her developing fetus. In addition, Zika virus can be sexually transmitted, and the virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males.  Cases of sexual transmission from an infected male to his partner have been reported. Only one case of sexual transmission has been reported from an infected female to her partner.

Symptoms of Zika virus can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and skin rash, along with joint and muscle pain. The illness is typically mild and lasts only a few days and the majority of those infected do not have symptoms. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Zika virus infection.

Experts agree that Zika virus infection causes microcephaly (abnormally small head) in a developing fetus during pregnancy and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a neurological disorder).  Several countries have reported cases of microcephaly and Guillian-Barré Syndrome.  Brazil, in particular, has reported a significant increase in the number of newborns with microcephaly.

Zika virus is occurring in many regions of the world although local transmission of Zika virus was first reported in the Americas in 2015.  There have been travel-related cases of Zika virus reported in Canada in returned travellers from countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks.

On November 18, 2016, the World Health Organization announced that the Zika virus, microcephaly and other neurological disorders still pose a significant public health challenge, however, no longer meet the criteria of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.   For Canadian women of childbearing age and their sexual partners, the risks associated with travel to countries reporting local mosquito-borne transmission, remain the same. 

This travel health notice will be updated as more information becomes available.

Recommendations

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.


Date modified: