The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a travel notice for the Zika virus, which has been linked to a surge in miscarriages and birth defects in Brazil.
In a notice published to its website on Friday (see below), the agency says pregnant women and women considering becoming pregnant should discuss travel plans with their doctors to assess their risk.
It also recommends these women “consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating in the Americas.
Travel Health Notice
In 2015, Zika virus was reported for the first time in a number of countries in Central and South America, as well as in Mexico. Past outbreaks of Zika virus infection have been reported in Africa, Asia and the Oceanic Pacific region.
There have been travel-related cases of Zika virus reported in Canada in returned travellers from countries where the virus is known to circulate. There have been no reported cases of locally acquired Zika virus in Canada.
For the latest updates on countries affected by Zika virus, please visit the World Health Organization’s websiteExternal link. For the latest map of confirmed cases in the Americas visit the Pan American Health Organization’s websiteExternal link.
Zika virus infection is caused by a virus which is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and rash, along with joint and muscle pain. The illness is typically mild and lasts only a few days.
In Brazil, there has recently been a significant increase in number of babies born with birth defects (congenital malformations), such as infants born with an abnormally small head and microcephaly (an underdeveloped brain). The Ministry of Health of Brazil recently identified a possible relationship between Zika virus infection and the increase in the number of microcephaly cases. An investigation to better understand the relationship between Zika virus infection and increased risk for microcephaly is ongoing.
It is recommended that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health care provider to assess their risk and consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating in the Americas. If travel cannot be postponed then strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed to protect themselves against bites.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that all travellers protect themselves from mosquito bitesExternal link when travelling to areas where Zika virus is circulating. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Zika virus infection.
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.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites External linkat all times, as the Zika virus is transmitted by a mosquito that can bite in daylight and evening hours. This includes the use of insect repellant and protective clothingExternal link.
Pregnant women, and those considering becoming pregnant, should discuss their risk with their health care provider. If travel cannot be postponed, strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed due to the possible association between Zika virus infection and increased risk of serious health effects on their unborn baby.
Prevention measures include, using bed nets, and wearing long-sleeved, loose fitting shirts tucked into long pants. For more information go to the webpage on insect bite preventionExternal link.
If you develop symptoms similar to Zika virus infection when you are travelling, or after you return, see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.