Zika hot spot trip no time to start a family, health official warns

Women planning a trip to Central or South America may want to rethink their visit if they're looking to conceive within two months of the vacation, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.

Dr. Howard Njoo says people should wait two months before trying to conceive

Dengue fever may have slipped from the headlines as the related Zika virus sweeps through Latin America, but every year mosquito-borne dengue causes devastating outbreaks throughout the tropics and subtropics. (turkletom/Flickr cc)

If you're planning to tan on a southern beach this March Break, be sure to protect yourself not only from UV rays but also from mosquitos carrying the Zika virus, a Canadian health official warns.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the director general of the Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control for the Public Health Agency of Canada, told The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris people need to be careful when travelling in Central and South America. 

"Wherever dengue (fever) has been reported in the past is potentially where Zika virus will ultimately also be circulating," Njoo said.

"The most important thing is to be able to protect yourself such as through clothing … using insect repellents and also maybe bed nets in certain parts where there's a lot of mosquitoes."

Transmission risks

Njoo said the health agency doesn't recommend that Canadians stay away from sunny destinations.

"For most individuals, even if they do become infected by the virus, they wouldn't even know it because the vast majority, 75 to 80 per cent of people, wouldn't even have any symptoms," he said.

"At this point in Canada, there really appears to be no risk in terms of any transmission here because the main types of mosquitoes that do transmit this virus are not established in Canada because of our cold climate," he said.

Njoo added there is now evidence the virus can persist long after people return home and in some cases, a man has infected his partner through sex.

Wait to conceive

The exception to the advice: women hoping to start a family within the two months following the trip.

Instead of a vacation to a tropical hot spot, Njoo said women should consider staying closer to home. 

"For women who are considering becoming pregnant or are pregnant ... they should obviously consult their healthcare provider and for the time being, until we find out more about this infection, they should maybe defer travel to these areas," Njoo said. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.