Zika virus is an infection that spreads to humans when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. In rare cases, Zika virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person and from blood transfusions from infected donors.
About 20% of people who are infected will experience fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), rash, and joint and muscle pain for a few days. Most people who are infected will not have any symptoms.
Risk to Albertans
There is no risk that Albertans who are in the province will get Zika virus from a mosquito because the mosquitos that transmit Zika virus do not live in Canada due to the climate.
There is a risk to Albertans of contracting Zika virus if they travel to countries where Zika virus circulates.
There is a low risk to Albertans of contracting Zika virus through sexual contact with either an infected person in an area where Zika virus is circulating or an infected person returning from an area where Zika virus is circulating.
Canadian Blood Services has taken measures to mitigate the risk of Zika virus entering the Canadian blood supply so the risk to Albertans of contracting Zika virus through blood transfusion is very low.
Zika cases in Alberta
- There have been 5 lab-confirmed cases of Zika in Alberta, 4 in 2016 and 1 in 2013.
- All cases were acquired due to travel.
Where Zika virus is occurring
Zika virus has been reported in Africa and parts of Asia since the 1950s, and has more recently been found in the Americas. An up-to-date list of affected countries can be found at:
Advice for pregnant women
Zika virus can spread to unborn babies of pregnant women and cause microcephaly, a rare but serious condition where babies are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains.
Pregnant women should avoid travelling to areas where Zika virus is circulating. If travel cannot be postponed then strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed to protect against bites.
Pregnant travellers returning from an area with Zika virus transmission should consult with their health care provider, especially if they have acute signs and symptoms similar to Zika virus.
Precautions for travellers
Albertans travelling to countries where Zika virus is known to circulate are advised to take the following precautions:
- Prepare: Call Healthlink at 811, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, or visit a travel health clinic 6 weeks before travelling.
- Protect yourself: Follow mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Seek care: Speak to a health care provider if you experience symptoms similar to a Zika infection while you are travelling or after you return.
Recommendations for returning travellers
Canadian health experts have developed the following recommendations for returning travellers that can help prevent the spread of Zika virus through blood or sexual contact:
- It is strongly recommended that returning travellers postpone all blood, organ, cell and tissue donation for at least 21 days.
- It is strongly recommended that women who are planning a pregnancy wait at least 2 months before trying to conceive.
- It is strongly recommended that men who have a pregnant partner use condoms for the duration of pregnancy.
- It is strongly recommended that men and their partners wait to conceive for 6 months and use a condom throughout the 6 months.
- It is recommended that men consider using condoms with any partner for 6 months after their return.
- It is strongly recommended that men defer all semen donations for 6 months.