Zika hot spot trip no time to start a family, health official warns
Dr. Howard Njoo says people should wait two months before trying to conceive
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.
- 20 Canadians, including pregnant woman, infected by Zika in other countries
- Zika virus: What you need to know and how to protect yourself
"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."
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.
- Zika virus: Canadian women advised to wait 2 months to get pregnant after travel
- Zika virus: WHO advises pregnant women not to travel to outbreak areas
- Zika virus risks in pregnancy may be 'more than microcephaly'
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.