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Health Advisory – Don’t let a small bite turn into a health problem

By on March 4, 2016

The Public Health Agency of Canada reminds travellers to protect themselves against mosquito bites to avoid Zika virus.

Thinking about getting away this winter to a warm destination? The Public Health Agency of Canada reminds Canadian travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites that can spread diseases that cause illness, like Zika virus. 

Zika virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The risk to Canadians is very low, as the mosquitoes known to transmit Zika virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate. However, the Agency has confirmed travel-related cases of Zika. 

While the Agency is not advising any travel restrictions at this time, Travel Health Notices have been posted to provide advice to Canadian travellers.

“Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should 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,” says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor. “No vaccine or medication is currently available to prevent or treat the infection. The best way to reduce the risk of Zika virus, and other mosquito-borne illnesses such as chikungunya and dengue, is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.”

In Brazil, there has recently been a significant increase in the number of babies born with birth defects, such as infants born with microcephaly (an abnormally small head). Additional investigation is ongoing to better understand the possible relationship between Zika virus infection and increased risk for microcephaly. 

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times, as the Zika virus is transmitted by a mosquito that can bite in daylight and evening hours. Travellers should:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Cover up; wear light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Use bed nets; use them also to cover playpens, cribs or strollers 
  • Stay in rooms with air conditioning
  • Keep windows/door screens in good repair

Symptoms of Zika virus generally include low-grade fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, lack of energy, weakness, headaches and red eyes. They can take up to 12 days to appear, but are usually mild and last for 2 to 7 days. 

If you are pregnant, or you have underlying medical conditions, or you develop more serious symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection, you should see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.

For more information, consult the Canada.ca website on Zika virus. 
 

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