Zika Virus & Mosquitoes
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Recently, the CDC issued a Level 2 travel alert related to Zika virus, urging people to take extra precautions when traveling to Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites, and includes common symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes).
Concerns about Zika virus came to light after reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected while pregnant. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.
As of February 3, 2016, a total of 35 travel-related cases of Zika virus had been reported in the United States. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the virus, but you can protect yourself from contracting the disease when traveling by always using an insect repellant containing DEET, wearing longer layers when outside and making sure wherever you’re staying has screens on the doors and windows.
Though mosquitoes aren’t a huge concern in the North America during winter months, they become a serious nuisance (and disease carriers) as the temperatures start to rise. When mosquito season picks up, be sure you’re taking the following steps to prevent mosquito bites:
Always use insect repellants containing DEET
Eliminate all sources of standing water, such as birdbaths, flower pots and any containers that could be overturned and filled with rainwater
Keep rain gutters cleaned out to prevent water from standing in drains
Cut back or get rid of unnecessary vegetation around your home where mosquitoes can breed and rest
Keep swimming pools covered in colder months to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs there, and drain any water that has collected on top of pool covers
Remove water from tree holes and hollow stumps
Keep windows and doors screened to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside your home
Consider using yellow light bulbs in outdoor light fixtures, as they reduce the number of flying insects around your home
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Why you should take note
The Public Health Agency of Canada has recently confirmed travel-related cases of Zika virus from Central and South America. Since Zika virus is spread through mosquito bites, travellers to Central and South America, particularly pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant, should protect themselves from mosquito bites. Mosquitoes known to transmit the virus to humans are not present in Canada.
Zika virus has been reported in Africa and parts of Asia since the 1950s, and in the southwestern Pacific Ocean in 2007. 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 World Health Organization's website. For the latest map of confirmed cases in the Americas visit the Pan American Health Organization'swebsite.
In November 2015, a Brazilian investigation indicated an average twenty-fold increase in the incidence of microcephaly (abnormally small head) among newborns born in areas where Zika virus was known to be in circulation. Although there is mounting evidence to warrant concern, the investigation is ongoing to confirm whether Zika virus may be the cause of these microcephaly cases.
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 generalized symptoms such as muscle pain, physical weakness, lack of energy and headaches.
The incubation period of Zika virus ranges from 3 to 12 days. The disease symptoms are usually mild and last for 2 to 7 days. Most people recover fully without severe complications, and hospitalization rates are low. Zika virus infection may go unrecognized or be misdiagnosed as dengue, chikungunya or other viral infections causing fever and rash.
Currently, there is no prophylaxis, vaccine or treatment for Zika virus. Treatment is generally limited to symptom relief.
Risk to Canadians
The risk to Canadians is low, as mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate.
Current evidence suggests that Zika virus is likely to persist and spread in the Americas and the South Pacific. Although the risk of virus establishment in Canada is low, there is ongoing risk to Canadians travelling to endemic regions.
Advice to Canadians
Canadians travellers visiting affected areas, should help protect themselves against Zika virus by taking individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites, including using insect repellent, protective clothing, mosquito nets, screened doors and windows. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Zika virus infection.
Pregnant women and women considering becoming pregnant
It is recommended that 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 in the Americas. If travel cannot be postponed, then strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed to protect themselves against bites.
While the Agency is not advising any travel restrictions, a Travel Health Notice has been posted to provide advice to Canadian travellers to countries in the Americas. We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and advise Canadians as appropriate.
If you develop symptoms similar to Zika virus infection when you are travelling, or after you return, see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.
What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing
The Public Health Agency of Canada works with its national and international partners, including the World Health Organization, to monitor and share information. The Agency tracks diseases in Canada and around the world.
The Agency will continue to assess the risk on an ongoing basis by working with our partners, and support enhanced awareness for the travelling public.
The Public Health Agency's National Microbiology Laboratory is able to detect the virus, and is in a position to support Provinces to test specimens.