Zika virus

What is Zika?

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus. It has been reported in parts of Africa and Asia since the 1950s and in 2015 emerged in South and Central America with widespread outbreaks.  For the most current list of countries affected please consult the World Health Organization website.  Zika has recently spread to Florida as well. For the most up to date maps on Zika transmission in Florida please consult the CDC website.

How is Zika Transmitted?

Zika is transmitted through the Aedes mosquito, which is mostly found in tropical regions. These mosquitos tend to bite in the morning and late afternoon/evening hours. The incubation period of Zika virus ranges between 3 and 12 days.

What are the Symptoms of Zika?

Only one in four individuals infected with the virus are believed to develop symptoms. Symptoms of Zika are mostly mild and self-limited. Symptoms include low grade fever, joint pain, red eyes, rash and generalized symptoms including muscle pain, physical weakness, lack of energy and headaches. These symptoms last between 3 and 12 days. Currently there is no treatment or vaccination against the Zika virus.

What are the Concerns Related to Zika?

The mosquito that carries the Zika virus is not found in Canada. Thus, the risk of mosquito borne transmission within Canada is virtually nonexistent. At present the Public Health Agency of Canada considers the overall risk to Canadians to be very low.  

In November 2015, the incidence of newborn microcephaly (abnormally small head) in areas of Brazil where Zika virus circulates was found to be on average twenty-fold higher than elsewhere. Currently, investigations are ongoing to confirm whether Zika virus is the cause of these incidences.

There have also been links between Zika and Guillan- Barré Syndrome, a neurological disorder, in countries where Zika is actively circulating. Investigations into this link are also ongoing.

Zika Related Travel Advisory

For Travellers

The Public Health Agency of Canada advises that travellers visiting affected areas should help protect themselves against Zika virus by taking individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites, including using insect repellent, protective clothing, mosquito nets, screened doors and windows.

For Pregnant Women or Women Considering Becoming Pregnant

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating and to discuss their travel plans with their health care provider to assess the risk. If travel cannot be postponed, they recommend strict mosquito bite prevent measures.

Women wishing to get pregnant should wait at least two months after their return from countries where Zika virus is circulating before trying to conceive.

Men who have travelled to a country with an ongoing Zika virus outbreak should use condoms with any partner who could become pregnant for six months after their return. It is recommended that men who have a pregnant partner should use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.

If you have any concerns related to the Zika virus, please consult a health care provider.

For more information please consult the Public Health Agency of Canada website and the Government of Canada Zika Virus website for the latest travel advisories.