Information about Zika virus
In 2015, Zika virus first emerged in South America with widespread outbreaks reported in Brazil and Colombia. In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. The outbreak in Brazil led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes. On February 1, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (A. aegypti and A. albopictus). Neither of these species of mosquito live in Canada. Recently, mosquito-related transmission has been described in the southern U.S. More information...
In Canada, there have been a number of cases of Zika virus detected in travellers returning from other countries. The first Canadian case of Zika virus-related microcephaly in an infant born to a mother infected with Zika virus while abroad has been reported. Sexually transmitted cases of Zika virus have also been reported in Canada. For more information and current statistics on Zika virus cases in Canada, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website.
Those travelling to countries where these mosquitoes are found and local transmission has occurred should protect themselves from mosquito bites. For travel information:
- PHAC Travel Health Notices
- PAHO confirmed cases of Zika virus in the Americas
- WHO disease outbreak reports
- CDC Zika Travel Information
The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Other symptoms may include muscle pain, weakness, lack of energy and headaches. The incubation period of Zika virus is 3 to 12 days. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
- Testing for Zika virus (PHAC)
The Zika virus can be found in blood for up to one week and has been shown to be present in semen and breast milk. Documented cases of Zika virus transmission have occurred during labour (intrapartum transmission from mother to newborn), blood transfusion and laboratory exposure. Sexual transmission has also been documented. Transmission through breastfeeding has not been documented.
Infection control precautions when caring for a patient with Zika virus include Routine Practices, particularly hand hygiene, gloves for contact with blood, and prevention of needlesticks.
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