Canadian baby with Zika developing normally, chief doctor says

A newborn in Canada whose mother contracted the Zika infection abroad during pregnancy is normal so far, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer says.

11 travel-related Zika pregnancies monitored, Public Health Agency of Canada reports

Seasonal frontline in outbreak shifts north from Brazil 2:06

A newborn in Canada whose mother contracted the Zika infection abroad during pregnancy is normal so far, Canada's chief public health officer says.

A total of 187 Canadians have contracted Zika, Dr. Gregory Taylor told CBC's Power & Politics host Hannah Thibedeau. One is a baby whose mother was infected while travelling in the first trimester of pregnancy and the baby contracted it.

"The baby had presence of the virus in the cerebrospinal fluid. That's the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. But at this time the baby is normal," Taylor said.

The baby will be monitored closely.

While the pregnant woman's body clears itself of the Zika virus, doctors are concerned about how it seems to cause brain damage and other complications that appear later in a baby's development. Researchers are tracking how congenital Zika syndrome can lead to problems such as constricted limbs, brain abnormalities and seizures.

Dr. Juliana Duque uses a fetal heart monitor on a patient who is in her first trimester of pregnancy in Miami before giving the patient a Zika test. Obstetricians use ultrasounds to check for signs of microcephaly during pregnancy and continue to monitor for a congenital syndrome related to the infection after birth. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

The Public Health Agency of Canada has reports of 11 Zika pregnancies, all travel related, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The current Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil, where it has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems.

Obstetricians use ultrasounds to check for signs of microcephaly during pregnancy, but Brazilian doctors have cautioned against equating Zika congenital infection with microcephaly. 

So far, evidence suggests that between one to 13 per cent of Zika pregnancies result in a baby with neurological deficits, Taylor said. The estimate could change as clinicians and scientists learn more about more subtle neurological effects.

Earlier this week, the Public Health Agency of Canada modified its travel advisories to recommend pregnant women or those trying to conceive to avoid a small area north of downtown Miami where Florida officials report 16 non-travel related infections of Zika in people.

"Because it's contained to a very small area within the country, we can't issue a travel advisory for the entire country. It doesn't make any sense because the risk is so localized," Taylor said. "That's a new approach for us. We've never done that before."

About four million Canadians visit Florida every year.

In the vast majority of people infected with Zika virus, the reaction is mild, and 80 per cent have no symptoms, Taylor said.

For people in Canada, the risk continues to be low since the mosquito species that normally transmits Zika virus cannot survive the cold weather, Taylor said.

Travellers are advised to protect themselves from mosquito bites at all times. 

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar


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