Zika virus infection: Global Update
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Updated: July 29, 2016
Travel Health Notice
The state of Florida in the United States has reported Zika virus infections likely caused by local mosquitoes in some parts of South Florida (Miami-Dade and Broward). These would be the first cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental United States. The Public Health Agency of Canada is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States to provide Canadians with the most up to date information as it becomes available.
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 baby. In addition, Zika virus can be sexually transmitted, and the virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen or 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 developing babies 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 June 14, 2016 the World Health Organization declared that the clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders, continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy avoid travel to countries with reported mosquito-borne Zika virus. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. For additional recommendations please see the section below.
This travel health notice will be updated as more information becomes available.
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks.
- If travel cannot be avoided or postponed strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed due to the association between Zika virus infection and increased risk of serious health effects on their unborn baby.
- Travellers returning from countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks:
- For pregnant women, if you develop symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection, you should consult a health care provider.
- For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait at least 2 months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- For male travellers, Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, therefore
- It is strongly recommended that, if you have a pregnant partner, you should use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- It is strongly recommended that you and your partner wait to conceive for 6 months by using a condom or by avoiding having sex.
- It is recommended that you should consider using condoms or avoid having sex with any partner for 6 months.
- Travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites at all times, as the Zika virus is transmitted by a mosquito that can bite in daylight and evening hours. These mosquitoes generally do not live or transmit disease at elevations above 2,000 meters. A list of how to prevent insect bites is available on the Government of Canada's website.
- Most people who have Zika virus illness will have mild symptoms that resolve with simple supportive care. If you are pregnant, or you have underlying medical conditions, or you develop more serious symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection, you should see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.
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