There has been a lot of stories coming out in the news about the Zika virus. To be clear, as of right now the chances of contracting this virus in Canada is extremely low and there has only been 9 confirmed cases in Canada (and rising); all cases have involved travel to countries that are known to have mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. At this time, stay calm, Canada is at minimal risk levels.
Outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands and is now wide spread in South America (Brazil) all the way up to Mexico and Florida. This virus is related to Dengue, Yellow Fever and West Nile virus. With the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika virus cases among travellers returning from these countries is likely to increase; when the warm weather comes to Canada there will be more of a risk of spreading this virus from an infected person by mosquito to a non-infected person that has not travelled anywhere.
Zika is mainly contracted from the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito; these mosquitoes have been known to carry other illnesses as well. They are known to be out feeding more during the day then at night time, so when travelling try and protect yourself by using repellent containing Deet or by covering your skin while in areas that mosquitoes are known to be hanging around. The virus can also be spread through infected blood or sexual contact with an infected person. There has been very few reported cases of this virus that someone contracted through sexual contact with an infected person. It is rare, but an infected mother can transmit the virus to their infant near the time of delivery. As of right now, there are no reports of infants getting the Zika virus through breastfeeding.
1 in 5 people infected with the Zika virus actually have symptoms. Symptoms are generally mild lasting from a few days up to a week. It can remain in the blood of an infected person for up to a week but can also be found in blood for a longer period in some people. The most common symptoms of the virus are:
- Mild fever
- Skin fever
- Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye)
- Red eyes
- Pain behind the eyes
- Muscle pain and joint pain
- Malaise (a general feeling of discomfort, illness or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify); or
The highest risk to a baby is believed to be when the mother is infected while pregnant. The virus has been linked in Brazil to cases of Microcephaly, which is a neurological conditions where babies are born with small heads and sometimes small or incomplete brain development. The condition may also be associated with severe developmental issues and in rare instances result in death. The W.H.O. is recommending that pregnant women not travel to countries identified as having the Zika virus (which is spread by mosquitoes).
Guillain-Barré syndrome (a problem with the nervous system causing muscle weakness, loss of reflexes and numbness or tingling in arms, legs, face and other parts of body) has also been linked to the Zika virus.
Rarely does the Zika virus cause death; as of right now there is no vaccine or special kind of medication to help treat the virus. But there are ways to treat the symptoms yourself:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
- Take acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain
- Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- If you are taking medication for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication
Best prevention methods would be to protect yourself from mosquito bites especially during the day or if possible avoid mosquito bites all together. If you are travelling to countries where the Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitoes are found, wear clothing that covers all limbs. Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside. Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Use Environmental Protection Agency- registered insect repellents, some repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breast-feeding women. Dress your child in clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Cover crib, stroller and baby carriers with mosquito netting, it is recommended to avoid places that are known to have the Zika virus especially if you are pregnant.
For more information go to the WHO website, and consult their factsheet.
If you know you or one of your employees are travelling to other countries, please make sure that you are prepared to protect your business by ensuring that there is a Pandemic Plan in place to reduce the possible spread of the virus once it has been contracted. For further information on this other pandemic related issues, contact Beyond Rewards.