The first cases of Zika virus disease have been reported in Africa and Asia since the 1950s. In 2007, there was an outbreak of the virus in Micronesia (Yap Island) in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Between 2013 and 2015, other important outbreaks were reported in islands and archipelagos of the Pacific region. In 2015, the virus appeared in South America and Central America, where cases of infection have been reported locally. Since then, the Zika virus has continued to spread in the Americas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported local transmission of Zika virus:
For a list of all countries affected by the Zika virus, go to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s website.
The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitos that most often transmit the virus is widespread, but it is not found in Québec. Climatic conditions in Québec are not conducive to its development. During the 2016 surveillance period in Canada, the 2 main types of mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus were identified in southern Ontario. However, neither carried the virus. Officials in Ontario believe the mosquitoes came from the United States. They have not been identified elsewhere in Canada.
The incubation period for the Zika virus is 3 to 12 days. Most people infected by the virus (75% to 80%) show little or no symptoms at all. When symptoms appear, they are generally mild and last 2 to 7 days. The main symptoms of the virus are:
In rare cases, the Zika virus can cause serious illnesses such as:
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. However, experimental vaccines are under review. Most infected people recover without treatment.
The Zika virus is usually through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted sexually during vaginal, anal and oral sex. The virus has been found in the sperm of infected men up to several weeks after infection. It has also been found in women’s genital secretions for about 10 days after the onset of the virus. Little is known about how long the virus stays in women’s genital secretions.
Pregnant women can also transmit the virus to their fetuses during pregnancy.
The virus can be transmitted during a blood transfusion, but it’s rare. As a precautionary measure, Héma-Québec has added new eligibility criteria for blood donors. As of February 7, 2016, people who have travelled outside of the continental United States and Europe must wait 21 days after their return to Canada to donate blood. This measure is intended to prevent the risks associated with the transmission of Zika and similar viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.
Although it is not a reportable disease in Québec, it is presently under enhanced surveillance.
Cases of the Zika virus disease confirmed by the Laboratoire de santé publique du Québec are reported to regional public health officials. Public health officials communicate with infected people to know:
As of February 1st, 2017, 91 cases of people infected with the Zika virus have been confirmed in Québec. Nearly all of these cases were acquired after a travel to a country where there is local transmission of Zika virus by mosquitos.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the risk of contracting Zika virus disease is very low for Canadians. It is mostly limited to people who travel or who live in areas where the virus circulates. In Canada, cases of Zika virus disease have been confirmed in people who were infected outside the country, by sexual transmission or by transmission from a mother to her fetus.
Travellers who visit or plan on visiting places affected by the Zika virus should take individual measures to prevent mosquito bites. For example, they should:
More examples of measures to prevent mosquito bites are available on the Protecting Yourself from Mosquito and Tick Bites page.
These measures protect against mosquito bites that can spread several diseases, including the Zika virus, chikungunya, malaria and dengue.
People who travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating should also protect themselves properly by using a barrier method during sex (a condom, for example) in order to prevent transmission of the virus. The use of a condom is recommended during vaginal, anal and oral sex with all partners for the duration of the trip. Men should continue wearing a condom up to 6 months after their trip, and women should consider using barrier methods to protect their sexual partners for at least 8 weeks after their return. These recommendations may be revised according to the evolution of the situation and of knowledge about the disease.
For health advice for people planning to travel to countries where there is active transmission of the Zika virus, see the government of Canada’s travel health notices.
Last update: February 1, 2017 2:17 PM