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Facts About...


What is it?

Zika virus was named after the Zika Forest of Uganda where it was first discovered in 1947. The virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. In 2015, Zika virus emerged in South America with widespread outbreaks reported in Brazil and Colombia. For the latest updates on countries affected by Zika virus, please visit

The overall risk is very low in Canada. Mosquitoes known to spread the virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate. The risk to travellers who are travelling to affected countries is low. However, pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should take special precautions. For more information on which countries have been issued travel notices, please visit

How is it spread?

Zika virus needs a vector - the Aedes mosquito - to infect people. The vector is primarily the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus mosquito species. These mosquitoes are not established in Canada. Therefore, the risk of becoming infected with the virus in Canada is very low.

The virus has been isolated in semen and therefore can be transmitted person-to-person sexually.

What do I look for?

Zika virus infection is considered a mild illness that generally resolves within 2-7 days. Only 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will display symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection are fever, rash, joint/muscle pain, fatigue, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and headache. Symptoms usually begin 3 to 12 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

What do I do if I become ill?

Call a health care provider immediately if you or someone you are caring for is showing some of the above symptoms and if you or anyone in your household has recently travelled to an area where the virus is circulating. To prevent any further transmission of your illness, limit contact with others and follow the advice of your health care provider.

How is it treated?

There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for Zika virus. Patients are treated for their symptoms.

How can I protect myself?

If you are traveling or returning from an area affected by Zika virus, make sure the following mosquito bite and other prevention measures are taken due to the possible association between the Zika virus infection and infants born with microcephaly.

For travelers going to Zika-affected countries:

  • Wear protective clothing such as long pants, long sleeves, shoes, and socks.
  • Use an insect repellent on exposed skin when outside in places and at times when mosquitoes are active - Never use a product labeled as an insecticide on your body.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark, more intense colors.
  • Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.
  • Use physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleep under mosquito nets.
  • Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health care provider to assess their risk and consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating.

For travelers returning from Zika-affected countries:

  • Women planning a pregnancy are recommended to wait at least two months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared the body.
  • For male travelers, the Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen therefore if you have a pregnant partner, use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • It is strongly recommended that you and your partner wait to conceive for six months by using condoms.
  • It is recommended that you should consider using condoms with any partner for six months.

For further general information on choosing an insect repellent product and updated information on using insect repellents containing DEET, please refer to Health Canada's website at

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line 905-723-3818 ext. 2188 or 1-888-777-9613

April 2016