The mosquito-borne Zika virus has made its way from the Caribbean and South America to Canada. While it’s not at epidemic levels in North America, the Public Health Agency of Canada is urging Canadians to educate themselves on the viral infection.
There’s already been one confirmed case of the Zika virus in Ontario, and more across the country. Below we’ve covered everything you need to know to stay safe from the rapidly spreading Zika virus.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is an illness transmitted through mosquito bites. When a mosquito bites an infected human, they’ll contract the disease and can pass it on to other, uninfected bite victims. There’ve also been some reported cases of the illness being transmitted through blood transfusions and sexual activity.
First discovered in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947, Zika virus cases in humans have been reported since the ‘50s. There’s never been an outbreak of this proportion, though.
Health officials are concerned because humans have never been exposed to the viral infection on such a large scale, and as a result, immunity to the disease is low. In turn, that’s led to the rapid spread of the Zika virus on a global scale.
What are some Zika virus symptoms?
First, the (kind of) good news: deaths are rare from the Zika virus. Typically only one-in-five people infected with the viral infection show any Zika virus symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Mild fever
- Joint pain
Fortunately the onset of the illness is mild, with Zika virus symptoms lasting for up to a week, post-mosquito bite. People aren’t usually sick enough to go the hospital; many infected people don’t even realize they’ve contracted the viral infection. Once someone’s been infected with Zika virus, they’re likely protected from future transmissions of the disease.
There are also ongoing studies on the long-term effects of the Zika virus. The illness has been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly, and while the evidence is strong, there hasn’t been a definitive link made.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disease that affects the nervous system, causing the person’s own immune system to attack the body’s nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS symptoms include muscle weakness of the legs and arms, usually on the same side of the body. In serious cases, muscle weakness can affect a person’s breathing. GBS cases have been popping up in Brazil, French Polynesia, and El Salvador – all places hit hard with Zika virus.
Microcephaly is a birth defect that occurs when a pregnant woman is infected with Zika virus. It’s believed the disease is passed through pregnancy, or at the moment of childbirth. Microcephaly causes the baby to be born with an unusually small head, as the brain doesn’t develop correctly. The severity of the disease ranges from intellectual disability to developmental delays in the child; sometimes the brain is so underdeveloped, it simply can’t perform the vital functions to keep the newborn alive.
Are there Zika virus treatments?
There is currently no medicine or Zika virus treatment to either prevent or remedy the viral infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some recommendations if you catch the Zika virus in Canada:
- Drink a lot of fluids.
- Take medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), but avoid aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – this reduces the risks of bleeding.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Keep yourself protected from any other mosquito bites for at least a week – this stops the illness from spreading, as any mosquito that bites you will contract Zika virus too.
Preventing mosquito bites
The best way to keep yourself safe from the viral infection, and preventing the spread of the Zika virus in Canada, is to prevent mosquito bites.
These are some of the more effective methods:
- Use Environment Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. These are proven to be safe to use, even for pregnant women.
- Wear long sleeves and pants (yes, we know summer is coming).
- Stay in air-conditioned areas, and places with door and window screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Avoid open waters and puddles – these are mosquito breeding grounds.
- Use permethrin on your clothing, or purchase permethrin-treated clothes. This should deter mosquitoes, and the permethrin lasts after numerous runs through the wash. Don’t use the permethrin on your skin; it’s made for clothing.
Though the Zika virus has made its way to Canada, its unlikely the virus will set up here. The mosquitoes responsible for transmitting Zika – the Aedes mosquito – can’t survive in our climate.
Still, the risks from contracting the viral infection from travelers coming to Canada are very real. Make sure you’re protected from mosquito bites this summer. This is especially paramount for pregnant women. It’s advised that pregnant women avoid travel all together, especially to places where the Zika virus originated. If you or your family intends to travel, talk to your healthcare provider first.
For more information on the Zika virus in Canada, zika virus symptoms, and mosquito bites, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s info page.
If you live in an area where there are frequently mosquitoes near your home, contact Magical Pest today at (800) 844-8235 to learn about how we can help put an end your mosquito problem.