Health Topics

Zika Virus

Zika is a virus spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, the same group of mosquitoes that spread Dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever.

On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization issued a statement that declared that the recent increase in microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, possibly related to Zika virus, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Confirmed travel-related cases of Zika virus infection from Central and South America have been identified in Canada. Travel-related cases of Zika virus may occur in Ontario in travellers returning from countries where the virus is known to circulate. However, local transmission in Ontario is not currently possible because the mosquitoes which transmit Zika virus are not native to Ontario. Rarely, Zika virus may be transmitted through blood transfusion and sexual contact.

Most people (75-80%) infected with Zika virus will have no symptoms.  When symptoms occur, they are usually mild and resolve in 2-7 days. Symptoms include fever, joint and muscle pain, skin rash, conjunctivitis, headache, and rarely neurological symptoms like encephalitis.  The time from exposure to Zika virus to the time of development of symptoms is about 3-12 days.

There is no specific treatment for Zika virus.  Treatment is supportive, including medications to control fever, plenty of fluids and rest. There is currently no vaccine for Zika virus.     

Travellers to affected countries, especially pregnant women, are advised to practice appropriate personal protection measures against mosquito bites during the day and night.

Please see your health care provider if you have symptoms of Zika virus infection after returning from travel in Central and South America.