October 12, 2016
Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About Zika
Give Me The Bullets
- ZIKA is a virus typically spread by mosquitoes
- It may lead to birth defects such as microcephaly
- There is currently no way to treat or prevent the disease
Why Should I Care?
Zika has been a huge news story in 2016, and the virus continues to spread through warmer climates, including South America, Central America, Mexico and the United States. This has led to travel concerns—especially for parents who are expecting or are planning to have a child soon.
Explain It To Me One More Time
Zika is a viral disease typically spread by infected mosquitoes, and it’s been linked to microcephaly (where a baby is born with an unusually small head). The current Zika outbreak began in 2015 in Brazil, but it has since spread to many other countries. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to protect ourselves: There are no vaccines to prevent the disease, or medications to treat it.
So It’s All About Mosquitoes?
Well, not exactly. That’s the most common way the virus spreads, but there are a few others. The Government of Canada says Zika can be transmitted sexually; it can be spread from an infected mother to her unborn child; and it can be passed through blood, cell and tissue donations.
When Did This Whole Thing Start?
Let’s go back to 1947: Zika was first identified in Uganda—but only in monkeys. In 1952, it was found in humans, but the first major outbreak didn’t happen until 2007 on the Island of Yap in Micronesia (that’s in the Pacific Ocean, near Polynesia). The current outbreak started in Brazil in 2015. It’s been talked about a lot because of the scope, and because the 2016 Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro. More details: WHO
Ok, So Who’s At Risk?
Zika is worrisome for expectant mothers, or women planning to have a child soon. If you’re pregnant and become infected with Zika, you might pass it along to your child.
So what should you do? Avoid Zika as best you can. If you’re pregnant, the Public Health Agency of Canada advises against travel to places where Zika is present. If you’re planning to get pregnant, you (and your partner) should speak to your doctor before packing your bags and travelling to an affected area.
What Are The Symptoms?
If you’re infected with Zika, you may experience a fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain or headaches. Often, symptoms are mild and last several days to a week. Sometimes, people experience no symptoms at all. Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness impacting the nervous system. More details: CDC
How Do I Prevent It?
At this time, we don’t have a vaccine or medication to prevent or treat Zika. If you’re travelling, protect yourself from mosquitoes by using inspect repellent, wearing long-sleeved tops, and sleeping in enclosed accommodations. More details: travel.gc.ca
I Visited A Country With Zika…Now What?
If you’re pregnant and develop symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as you can. Planning to get pregnant? If you have symptoms, you should wait at least two months before trying to conceive. And all male travellers should avoid unprotected sex for six months, and wait six months to conceive with a partner. More details: travel.gc.ca
Can It Affect Future Pregnancies?
Thankfully, the CDC says there’s “no evidence that prior Zika virus infection poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.” But before you think about getting pregnant, follow the guidelines above.
Is Zika in Canada?
There are no reports of Zika-infected mosquitoes in Canada (thanks to our relatively colder climate). However, there have been 279 travel-related cases, two sexually transmitted cases and two reports of maternal-to-fetal transmission detected in Canada as of September 15, 2016. See the latest reports.
Anything Else I Need to Know?
Zika-related research is international and ongoing. Health officials say the best way to protect yourself and your family from Zika is to follow preventative measures, including: guarding against mosquito bites, practicing safe sex and familiarizing yourself with parts of the world that are experiencing outbreaks.
For more information on Zika, visit: