Pregnant with plans to travel? Heard of Zika?


Have you been thinking about going on a ‘babymoon’ before your little one arrives?   Speak to your health care provider if you’re planning to travel and find out if your destination is affected by the Zika virus.  The World Health Organization has the latest updates on affected countries.

What’s Zika?

Zika is a virus that is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes.  The virus causes a condition called microcephaly, an abnormally small head in a newborn baby that is caused by disruptions in brain development.  This can lead to lifelong developmental problems.  Other things to know:

  • The virus circulates in a person’s blood from 3 to 12 days after infection, it may last in a person’s urine and semen longer than that
  • The period from infection to symptoms (incubation period) is not known exactly but is likely 3 to 12 days
  • Symptoms are usually mild and last for 2 to 7 days
  • Most people recover fully without long-term problems
  • The number of people treated in the hospital is low
  • The symptoms may not be noticed or could be mistaken for another disease
  • There is no vaccine or medication that protects against the virus

Zika Symptoms

About 4 out of 5 (80%) Zika-infected individuals will have no signs and symptoms.  About one fifth (20%) of people infected with Zika will show these symptoms:

  • low-grade fever
  • joint pain (arthralgia)
  • red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • rash
  • muscle pain (myalgia)
  • physical weakness
  • lack of energy
  • headaches

How can you protect yourself?

If your destination is affected by Zika, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends that you avoid travel to these places while pregnant or trying to get pregnant.  If travel can’t be avoided, protect yourself from mosquito bites by using:

  • insect repellent as directed (if you are worried about using this, speak to your health care provider)
  • protective clothing (e.g. light clothing, long sleeve shirt and pants)
  • mosquito nets
  • using protective equipment such as screened windows and doors (make sure they are in good repair)


Zika and sexual transmission

The Zika virus has been detected in semen and sexual transmission of the virus has been confirmed in both Canada and the United States.

PHAC recommends:

  • Women should wait two months after returning before attempting to conceive
  • Men should wait for at least six months after returning to conceive by using condoms during this period when having sex
  • Men should use condoms when having sex with a pregnant partner during her entire pregnancy
  • Men should consider using condoms with any partner for six months after returning
  • Travellers from Zika-affected countries and their sexual partners take precautions to protect themselves against the virus even after they return

If you do travel to an affected country and develop symptoms when you’re travelling, or in the two weeks after you return, see your health care provider immediately.

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