Zika virus update: Canadian cases amp; what to do to prevent it
It captured headlines around the world last year during the Rio Olympics. Just days into 2017 and it appears our battle with Zika virus has only just begun as many consider a winter escape.
Zika virus has now spread to 69 countries including the United States. The threat associated with the virus isn’t over even if it hasn’t been top of mind for couples or individuals as they plan their hot holidays.
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“It can cause severe birth defects in the fetus and the children are born typically with shrunken heads, etc.,” Dr. Andrew Potter, CEO and director of VIDO-InterVac, said.
“So it’s an issue not so much for normal healthy adults, but people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it can be an issue.”
A pandemic in progress that is wreaking havoc worldwide.
“This epidemic is continuing to grow, it is not diminishing,” Dr. Theresa Tam, interim chief public health officer with the public Health Agency of Canada, said.
“What the World Health Organization advised is you’re now into maintenance mode considering that Zika is an ongoing risk and people shouldn’t forget that this is still something that they must consider before they travel.”
For anyone traveling to Zika hotspots, it’s recommended you wait six months to have unprotected sex or attempt to conceive a baby even if you have no symptoms. Zika is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes but it can also be contracted through sex.
“So a male or a female can transmit to their partner out to about six months after they are initially infected so it’s not something you can get a bite and a couple of weeks later you don’t have to worry about it, it can go for several months,” Potter said.
As of Dec. 13, 2016 – there were 421 travel-related cases, three sexually transmitted cases and 20 pregnant women living with the Zika virus reported in Canada.
There have been two Zika-related anomalies observed in fetuses and newborns and two other cases where no anomalies were observed.
According to Tam, it’s also possible that the number of pregnancies reported among Zika-infected women in the country could be higher.
Tam said if you are pregnant and travel cannot be avoided or postponed, you are to take strict measures to avoid mosquito bites.
“A lot of it is just common sense – mosquito repellent, long sleeves that type of thing can do a world of good,” Potter said.
There is no cure for Zika virus and vaccines are still being developed so once you have the virus – you have it.
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