Zika virus con­sid­ered ‘very low’ threat to Canada: chief pub­lic health of­fi­cer

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The mos­quito-borne Zika virus “does not present a sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic health risk to Canada,” the coun­try’s chief pub­lic health of­fi­cer said Fri­day.

Dr. Gre­gory Tay­lor said there have been four re­cent cases in Canada — two in Bri­tish Columbia, one in Al­berta and a newly dis­closed case in Que­bec, all of them in­volv­ing peo­ple who re­cently trav­elled to af­fected ar­eas.

Tay­lor told a news con­fer­ence his agency is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion as the virus spreads, par­tic­u­larly in South Amer­ica.

“The mos­qui­toes known to trans­mit the virus are not es­tab­lished in Canada and are not well suited to our cli­mate,” he said. “For this rea­son the risk of Zika virus in­fec­tion in Canada is con­sid­ered very low.”

Dr. Ho­ra­cio Ar­ruda, Que­bec’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic health, said ear­lier Fri­day that the case in that prov­ince sur­faced af­ter a woman re­turned from the Caribbean with flu-like symp­toms in early Jan­uary.

The woman con­sulted a doc­tor upon re­turn­ing home and is now fully re­cov­ered, Ar­ruda said.

Pub­lic health of­fi­cials say the risk for Cana­di­ans is low and lim­ited to those who travel or live in re­gions where the virus is cir­cu­lat­ing.

While mos­qui­toes are the main source of trans­mis­sion, but there are other pos­si­bil­i­ties, Tay­lor said.

“There is some ev­i­dence that mother-to-child trans­mis­sion may oc­cur, there have been a few re­ports iden­ti­fy­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of trans­mis­sion of Zika virus through trans­fu­sion of in­fected blood or pos­si­ble sex­ual trans­mis­sion of Zika virus. More re­search is still needed on trans­mis­sion and ef­fects of this dis­ease.”

There is no vac­cine, al­though Cana­dian re­searchers are among those seek­ing one.

In Brazil, the Zika virus has been linked to cases of mi­cro­cephaly, or ab­nor­mally small heads in new­borns.

Tay­lor says women who are preg­nant or plan­ning to be­come preg­nant, con­sult a health-care prac­ti­tioner be­fore trav­el­ling to a re­gion where the virus is cir­cu­lat­ing.

The ill­ness it­self is gen­er­ally mild, Tay­lor said.

“Only about 20 to 25 per cent of peo­ple in­fected with the virus de­velop symp­toms, which can in­clude fever, headache, con­junc­tivi­tis or pink eye, rash and joint or mus­cle pain.

“Se­vere ill­ness is un­com­mon.”

CP PHOTO

Dr. Gre­gory Tay­lor, Chief Pub­lic Health Of­fi­cer of Canada, speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ottawa Fri­day about the Zika virus.

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