Zika virus: Advice for travellersUpdated May 23, 2017
Updated: May 19, 2017
What is Zika?
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Zika is a virus spread by mosquitos. It causes an infection that is typically mild and lasts only a few days. Symptoms of Zika virus can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), skin rash and joint and muscle pain. Many people who are infected do not have symptoms.
Why should you be concerned?
Zika can cause serious birth defects including abnormally small heads (microcephaly), brain abormalities, vision and hearing loss, and more.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be spread from:
- A pregnant woman infected with Zika virus to her developing fetus.
- A person infected with Zika virus to a sexual partner.
- A person infected with Zika virus who donates cells, blood or tissue.
There have also been increased reports of a serious nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome in areas where the Zika virus is circulating.
There is no vaccine or medication that protects against or treats Zika virus infection.
Who should be concerned?
Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries or areas in the United States with recent or ongoing risk of Zika virus. The Zika virus infection increases the risk for serious birth defects. Women can pass the virus to their unborn babies.
The Zika virus infection can be sexually transmitted and men can carry the Zika virus in their semen for up to 6 months. Partners should be aware of the risk so they can make informed travel decisions and to take appropriate precautions.
How can you protect yourself from Zika virus?
Before your trip:
Consult the list of countries and areas in the United States to determine the risk of Zika virus infection at your destination.
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries or areas in the United States with recent or ongoing risk of Zika virus infection.
- If you cannot avoid or postpone travel talk to a health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy and follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
During your trip:
All travellers should prevent mosquito bites during the day, and night when travelling to countries at risk for Zika.
The mosquito that transmits the Zika virus usually bites during the day but can also bite at night. It is generally not found at altitudes above 2,000 meters.
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin
- Cover up: wear light-coloured, long–sleeved shirts and long pants
- Stay in rooms with air conditioning and places that have intact window and door screens.
- Use bed nets: they can also cover playpens, cribs or strollers
After your trip:
See your health care provider, if you have symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection.
- Tell them where you have been travelling or living.
For pregnant women, if you develop symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection, you should consult a healthcare provider.
For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait at least 2 months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
For male travellers, Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, therefore it is strongly recommended that:
- If you have a pregnant partner, you should use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- You and your partner should wait 6 months before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
- You should consider using condoms or avoid having sex with any partner for 6 months.
Information for Health Professionals
Useful resources for clinical guidance:
- Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel Canadian Recommendations on the Prevention and Treatment of Zika Virus
- The Zika virus: Counselling travellers Tips for travellers before they leave
- Zika virus: Information for health professionals Tips for diagnosis
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