Chances are that you’ve heard quite a bit about the Zika virus. The difficult part is separating fact from fiction. There are no reports of mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus in Canada. However, there’s an ongoing low level of risk to Canadians travelling to some countries and some areas in the U.S. with reported mosquito-borne Zika virus. Whether you have an upcoming vacation to a tropical climate or you’re just curious to learn more about how Zika could affect you, we’ve offered up both the facts and the fiction of this virus.
FACT: Zika is spread through mosquito bites. When a person is bitten by a mosquito that has Zika, that person then can carry the virus. From there the person can get bitten by a “clean” mosquito and pass the virus on to other people.In addition, the Zika virus is considered an STD. If you or your partner is infected, consult with a doctor.
FACT: Most people infected by Zika experience only brief flu-like symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 80% of people who get Zika experience little to no symptoms at all. Fever and rash as well as muscle and joint pain are the most common symptoms, as well as headaches and conjunctivitis.
FACT: The Zika virus can cause birth defects. Connected to microcephaly or an abnormally small head and brain, the Zika virus is extremely dangerous to unborn babies. Pregnant women, or women who are considering pregnancy, should be especially careful when travelling to areas where Zika is active. Unborn babies are the most at-risk population for Zika.
FACT: Research is underway for a vaccine against the Zika virus. In fact, the U.S FDA has approved a pharmaceutical company to move forward with the testing of an experimental Zika vaccine for humans.
FICTION: You can get Zika by swimming in contaminated water. While the virus can be spread through mosquito bites, blood transfusions, and even sexually, there is no evidence to support that Zika can be transferred through water.
FICTION: There is no way to prevent Zika. It actually is possible to prevent this virus from affecting you and your loved ones. First, stay away from infected areas. If travel to an infected area is unavoidable, be sure to use a strong insect repellent during the length of your stay. Try to stay indoors at dawn and dusk, which are the times of day mosquitoes tend to be most active. Be sure to cover as much of your body as possible when outdoors to avoid mosquito bites.
As Zika is a relatively new virus, there is still a lot to learn about it. However, when we are able to separate fact from fiction, we can be better prepared for its prevention.