Sask. researcher warns winter travellers to avoid Zika-stricken areas
Lots of popular vacation spots threatened by the spread of Zika
You might not be one of millions of people heading to Rio for the summer Olympics, but chances are you have your sights set on a southern winter getaway.
But before you book your reservation, researchers in Saskatoon looking at the Zika virus suggest southern vacationers try and avoid areas where the Zika virus has been confirmed in humans.
Andrew Potter is the CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) in Saskatoon. He said in light of the 13 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Florida, the spread of Zika from Brazil was bound to happen.
"The mosquito that transmits the virus can be anywhere in that climate zone so that's not a surprise." Potter told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "You're going to see it spread — I think it's going to move north from Florida."
Potter and his team are currently studying the Zika virus, trying to replicate its effects on humans with pigs, but they haven't been able to draw a link between Zika with microcephaly, a shrunken brain syndrome that recently struck Brazil.
The key here is the Aedes breed of mosquito is the only one that carries the Zika virus, and it's usually found in a tropical climate. Currently the Aedes breed can't be found as north as Saskatchewan, so there's not a lot to worry about for people afraid to catch the infection at home.
"Unless that breed of mosquito makes its way up here," Potter added.
But with the Zika-carrying mosquitoes populating most of the popular winter destinations, Potter said if tourists find themselves in those areas, there's a lot they can do to make sure they return home virus-free.
"If you're on vacation do the usual things to make sure you don't get bit: make sure you have mosquito repellent," Potter said. "Pregnant women, I would tend to worry if it was a family member of mine, I would recommend lots of other warm places one could go, like Hawaii."
Travellers are also urged to book an appointment with the Saskatoon Travel Clinic.
He added he expects to learn a lot about Zika in the next year, with his research team focusing on how and why the Zika virus attacks the fetus, whereas other mosquito-carrying diseases like West Nile attack the brain.
"There's something about this family of viruses that is very interesting when one looks at the brain, however Zika takes it into the fetus," he said.
With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning