Zika virus update

We have been asked a lot of questions about Zika virus, which has been in the news.  Here is some general information about Zika virus.

What Is Zika Virus?

  • Zika virus infection is spread by mosquitoes and is caused by a virus closely related to dengue, West Nile virus, and Japanese encephalitis.
  • Less commonly, the virus can be transmitted from mother to baby immediately before & after birth, through blood transfusions, and sexual transmission.

Risk Factors:

  • Anyone who is living in or travelling to an area where there is ongoing transmission of Zika virus is at risk of acquiring the infection.
  • Some areas of note are: Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, El Salvador, French Polynesia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Thailand, Venezuela.


  • About 1 of 5 affected people have symptoms.
  • Symptoms are flu-like in nature: fever, headache, general sense of feeling unwell, rash (often starting on face and spreading to rest of body), joint or muscle pain, red eyes.
  • Symptoms usually last 2-7 days, are generally mild, and get better on their own.
  • It appears that pregnant women that are infected with Zika are at a higher risk to have their child born with birth defects. This is still being investigated.


  • There is no vaccine or medication to prevent Zika virus, so insect precautions and personal protection measures against mosquitoes are the main prevention strategies!
  • This includes: mosquito repellent, long sleeves & pants, and staying in places with air conditioning or window/door screens.
  • Pregnant women should consider taking additional precautions, or possibly delay their trip if there is a Zika outbreak in the area they are travelling.
  • The mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus are active in the daytime, so it is important to apply an effective mosquito repellent during daytime hours.
  • Containers with standing water can be breeding sites for mosquitoes, so be sure to empty them or remove them if they are close to your living residence.


  • There is no specific treatment for Zika virus.  Most Zika virus infections resolve spontaneously over a few days. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help relieve symptoms.

If you have questions before you travel, book an appointment with a travel health professional, who is up to date with the latest information about Zika and other illnesses.

Our clinic also stocks mosquito repellants with DEET 30% and icaridin 20%.  Icaridin containing mosquito sprays are the first choice recommended by Health Canada for children 6 months to 12 years old.  You do not need an appointment to purchase these mosquito sprays.

To book an appointment at our travel clinic in Airdrie, click here.