Zika virus has recently been introduced to the Americas after spreading to many of the Pacific islands since 2013. Historically, Zika virus has mostly been found in Africa and South-East Asia. For a list of countries where Zika Virus has been found so far, follow this link:
Zika virus infections are transmitted by day-biting Aedes mosquitoes, which are common in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Americas and elsewhere but are not present in Canada. Spread of the Zika virus is therefore not expected to occur in the NWT due to the absence of these mosquitoes.
Most patients who are infected with Zika virus experience skin rashes and have some have eye irritation or other minor symptoms. However, there is a strong suspicion that Zika virus may cause birth defects in babies born to women who become infected while they are pregnant. For this reason, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is advising pregnant women and women considering becoming pregnant to defer travel. See Public Health Notice – Zika Virus at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/phn-asp/index-eng.php. Pregnant women who travel to areas where Zika virus is circulating should be sure to inform their healthcare providers.
The best way to escape infection with Zika virus is to avoid mosquito bites. There is no treatment or vaccine available at this time. Pregnant women and women of reproductive age should follow the same recommendations as all travelers:
- Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved, loose fitting, tucked-in shirts, long pants, shoes or boots (not sandals), and a hat; in tick infested areas, you can also tape the cuffs of your pants or tuck them inside your socks, shoes or boots.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin as directed by the manufacturer on exposed skin
- If you need to apply both sunscreen and repellent with DEET, apply the sunscreen first and let it soak into the skin for about 15 minutes, then apply the repellent.
- Stay in a well-screened or completely enclosed air-conditioned room.
- Sleep under a bed net, preferably treated with insecticide
- Apply a permethrin insecticide to clothing and other travel gear for greater protection
More information can be obtained at: