WHO Declares Zika Virus International Public Health Emergency

The mosquito-borne Zika virus was first isolated more than 60 years ago in Africa but has since spread to Asia, islands in the pacific and into the Americas. Brazil documented its first case of transmission last May and since then has reported more than 4,100 infants with microcephaly – a brain development condition marked by an abnormally small head. Association between the virus outbreak and microcephaly led the World Health Organization (WHO) today to declare it a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Currently it’s thought that the people most at risk to be affected adversely by the infection are pregnant women, women who are thinking of becoming pregnant, or women who could become pregnant.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, symptoms of the Zika virus infection can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and rash, along with joint and muscle pain. The illness is typically mild and lasts only a few days.

It’s recommended that all travellers protect themselves from mosquito bites when travelling to areas where the Zika virus is circulating. Prevention measures include, using bed nets, and wearing long-sleeved, loose fitting shirts tucked into long pants. Click here for the latest countries affected according to the WHO.

Canada’s Health Notice related to the Zika virus is currently at Level 2, which means that travellers should “practice special precautions.” Pregnant women or those looking to become pregnant are advised to speak with their health care provider about risks before they travel to affected areas.