March break is quickly approaching, and families across Canada are gearing up for their southern vacations. Warm weather and white sandy beaches await, but lurking in the tropical weather is a risk many of us don’t recognize – the Zika virus.
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 outbreaks. So, whether you are heading to Florida or the Caribbean, it’s a good idea to brush up on some Zika health advice that will help protect your family.
The Zika virus poses little to no risk to many Canadians. In fact, many people who get infected may not develop any symptoms at all. But those Canadians who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy in the next six months do face increased risk related to Zika virus.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, as well as from an infected pregnant woman to her developing fetus.
If you’re pregnant, getting infected with Zika virus could increase the risk of severe health outcomes for your developing fetus. Research has found that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects in a developing fetus. The virus can also cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a neurological disorder). That’s why pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel where Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitoes.
If you are planning a pregnancy, and you or your partner have recently visited an area reporting mosquito-spread Zika virus, 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 your body. Men need to wait 6 months before trying to conceive and during that period of time, use a condom correctly and consistently or avoid having sex.
Studies have shown that the virus can survive up to 6 months in semen. If you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to an area where local mosquitoes carry the Zika virus, it is recommended that you use condoms correctly and consistently, or avoid having sex, for the duration of the pregnancy.
Remember that the best way to prevent Zika virus infection is to prevent mosquito bites. So when you’re packing sunscreen for your family vacation, make sure to also include insect repellent and use it correctly and consistently in both daytime and evening hours.
COURTESY: News Canada