Nunavut, Quebec follow national example, issue Zika warning

Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, linked to birth defects, other neurological damage


The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is thought to be the main carrier of the Zika virus. (PHOTO/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is thought to be the main carrier of the Zika virus. (PHOTO/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

(Updated, Feb. 1, 3:55 p.m.)

Planning a trip to a warmer climate?

If you’re a woman who’s pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you may wish to rethink your plans.

Nunavut’s Health department has issued a travel notice to Nunavummiut planning to travel to South and Central America, the Caribbean, African and Asian countries affected by the Zika virus, suspected to be the cause of microcephaly (abnormally small head) in newborns as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological condition that leads to paralysis.

Quebec has also issued a similar warning for more than 20 countries which include Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Barbados, which have reported cases of Zika, a virus spread by mosquitoes.

On Feb. 1 the World Health Organization declared that in the Americas Zika is a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Possible person-to-person sexual transmission of Zika has also been described, but not confirmed.

To date, the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed travel-related cases of Zika.

Meanwhile, most airlines, such as Air Canada, are offering free changes or refunds for flights for women and their travel companions; some airlines require a doctor’s note.

Travellers visiting affected regions, especially pregnant women and those thinking of becoming pregnant, should take measures to prevent mosquito bites, say the health notices issued by Nunavut, Quebec and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

These precautions include using insect repellent, protective clothing, mosquito nets and making sure there are screened doors and windows where you stay.

Zika, reported in Africa and parts of Asia since the 1950s, also cropped up in the southwestern Pacific Ocean in 2007.

In 2015, the Zika virus emerged in South America, with outbreaks in Colombia and Brazil, where more than 4,000 babies have been born with microcephaly.

For the latest updates on countries affected by Zika, you can visit the World Health Organization’s website.

Its fact sheet on Zika notes only one in four people infected with Zika virus are believed to develop symptoms. These include: low-grade fever, joint pain, red eyes, rash and symptoms such as muscle pain, physical weakness, lack of energy and headaches.

The incubation period of Zika virus ranges from three to 12 days. The disease symptoms are usually mild and last for two to seven days. Most people recover fully without severe complications, and hospitalization rates are low.

But, currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika.

While the mosquito that carries Zika is not expected to reach Canada, many research studies suggest there will be an increase of insect-borne diseases in the Arctic for humans and animals, as mosquitoes and ticks enter the North along with warmer temperatures.

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