Spread of Zika virus in Canada re­mote, says Philpott

Blood do­na­tion lim­i­ta­tions put into place

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Jane Philpott is try­ing to calm fears about the out­break of the Zika virus af­ter three cases of the ill­ness were con­firmed in Canada.

Philpott says Cana­di­ans are be­ing ad­vised to avoid travel to coun­tries af­fected by the virus, which can cause neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lems and birth de­fects.

But the min­is­ter notes that the Cana­dian cases all in­volve pa­tients who re­cently trav­elled in af­fected ar­eas, and says the breed of mos­qui­toes known to spread the virus is not found in Canada.

Canada is ex­pected to at­tend an emer­gency meet­ing hosted by the United Na­tions on Mon­day where health of­fi­cials hope to come up with a plan to stop the spread of the virus.

In the mean­time, Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices will stop ac­cept­ing blood do­na­tions from peo­ple re­turn­ing from coun­tries hit by the out­break.

Philpott says it’s still un­clear whether the virus has ac­tu­ally been spread through blood prod­ucts, but prom­ises more in­for­ma­tion on that like­li­hood will be made pub­lic once it’s avail­able.

“At this point I don’t know that we’re in a po­si­tion to val­i­date those con­cerns,” Philpott said Thurs­day out­side the House of Com­mons.

“I would stay tuned and I’ll give fur­ther in­for­ma­tion as soon as I have it.”

The Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada is con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and front-line health work­ers are be­ing told to be on the look­out for peo­ple who may ex­hibit symp­toms, said Philpott.

“We’re in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with all stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing health care providers to make sure that peo­ple are aware of the ap­pro­pri­ate symp­toms that might put in mind a pos­si­ble di­ag­no­sis of Zika virus and that peo­ple are tested ap­pro­pri­ately for that,” said the min­is­ter.

A de­ci­sion on which coun­tries will be linked to the ban on blood do­na­tions is ex­pected in the next few days.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says the virus is “spread­ing ex­plo­sively.”

AP PHOTO

A tech­ni­cian of the Fiocruz in­sti­tute stores Aedes ae­gypti mos­qui­toes to be used in Zika virus re­search, in Re­cife, Brazil, Wed­nes­day. As the fed­eral govern­ment seeks to calm fears about the virus, Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices has said it will stop ac­cept­ing blood do­na­tions from peo­ple re­turn­ing from coun­tries hit by the out­break.

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