Outside temperatures have fallen to well below zero, and each day Canadians battle rain, sleet and snow. In search of warmer temperatures and re-energizing climates, many of us migrate south with little understanding of the risk the Zika virus poses.
Here are four tips to protect you and your family:
1. Understand what causes it. Zika virus infection is caused by a virus that’s primarily spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her developing fetus, and through unprotected sexual contact.
2. Know your risk. Zika virus is occurring in many regions of the world, and there have been cases reported in Canada from travellers returning from countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks.
Although the overall risk to Canadians is low when travelling to Zika affected countries, it is still important to stay informed of the risks. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects in a developing fetus. The virus can also cause neurological disorders, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel where Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes.
3. Be on high alert if pregnant or planning pregnancy. If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, and you or your partner has recently visited an area reporting mosquito-spread Zika virus, there are preventative actions you should take.
If you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to an area where local mosquitoes carry the Zika virus, use condoms correctly and consistently or avoid having sex for the duration of your pregnancy.
Studies have shown that the virus can live up to 6 months in semen. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that women wait at least 2 months before trying to conceive to ensure that the Zika virus has cleared their body. Men should wait 6 months before trying to conceive. During that period of time, use a condom correctly and consistently, or avoid having sex.
4. Learn prevention strategies. The best way to prevent Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites. So when you’re packing sunscreen for your dream tropical vacation, make sure to also include insect repellent and use it correctly and consistently in both daytime and evening hours.
Find more tips and information online at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/zika-virus.html.