Travelling somewhere warm? Don’t bring ZIKA home

Pregnant couples should avoid travel to areas where Zika is present

With families across Canada busy planning sunny holiday vacations to beat the winter blues, it’s a good time to take some precautions for safe travels. Wherever you plan to visit, make sure you don’t bring home any unwanted souvenirs, such as the Zika virus.

The Zika virus is found in many regions of the world, and it likes to travel. There have been cases of Zika reported in Canada among travellers who were infected with the disease while vacationing in countries with ongoing outbreaks. While the virus poses little risk to most people, those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should know that a Zika virus infection could result in serious birth defects in the developing fetus.

The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, but it can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact or from an infected pregnant woman to their developing fetus. That’s why pregnant couples and those planning a pregnancy within six months should avoid travel to areas where Zika is present.

Women planning to become pregnant who have recently visited an area reporting Zika cases are advised by the Public Health Agency of Canada to wait at least two months before trying to conceive. This will ensure that if they were infected during travel, the Zika virus has cleared the body before conception.

Men are encouraged to wait six months after returning from a Zika-affected area before planning for a pregnancy, because studies have shown that the virus can survive in semen for up to six months. This is especially important because most people who are infected do not show symptoms. The best way to avoid Zika-related pregnancy complications is to wait before trying to get pregnant.

If you are pregnant and you or your partner have travelled to a Zika-affected area, it is recommended that you use condoms correctly or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

The best way to prevent Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites. Make sure to pack insect repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect against mosquito bites during daytime and evening hours. You can also check the Government of Canada’s travel health notices for more information on travel-related health threats such as Zika.