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Zika Virus and Travel Health

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Jan 26th, 2016

Lots of talk these days about the Zika virus. It’s a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. The World Health Organization announced this week the virus is expected to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile.

Infectious Diseases expert Dr. Stephen Vaughan says it’s highly unlikely the virus will come to Canada because we simply do not have this mosquitoe in our country. But if people travel, specifically to South America or the Caribbean, they are at risk.

Most people who contract the virus, 80 percent according to Dr. Vaughan,  do not even know they have the virus and do not develop symptoms. But researchers are investigating a very troubling link between the Zika virus and brain damage in unborn babies. In Brazil they’ve seen a 20 fold increase in babies born with a small brain and Zika infection in the mothers.

So, Dr. Vaughan recommends any woman trying to get pregnant and travelling to South America or the Caribbean wait until they get home. In fact, he recommends waiting 21 days upon return to Canada to start trying again to get pregnant. If a woman is pregnant, he strongly recommends she avoid travel to the area or at least going to a travel clinic to discuss her risk in relation to the areas she’ll be visiting.

Dr. Vaughan says anyone travelling should visit a travel clinic before they go, ideally six months before, to get the necessary vaccinations and information. Even if travelers don’t have that time, Dr. Vaughan recommends going to a travel clinic regardless. He says it’s not just Zika virus people need to be worried about… he says travelers need to be prepared for malaria, Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and may require booster vaccines.

And if you return home from travelling and have a high fever, Dr. Vaughan says go straight to the emergency room and tell them you’ve been travelling. He says malaria, for example, can be fatal if not treated quickly.

For more information on the Zika virus visit this website. For more information on travel health visit this website, to find a travel clinic go here.

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