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Zika Virus: WHO announces a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

The first meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders in some areas affected by Zika virus was held by teleconference on 1 February 2016.

According to the Pan American Health Organization the Zika illness is caused by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Symptoms of infection are usually mild and can last for two to seven days. Headache and rash, along with joint and muscle pain, can also occur.

The public health Agency of Canada stated 75 to 80 percent of those infected with the virus do not show any symptoms, however it may affect pregnant women and cause some birth defects  to the unborn child. They claim that the risk to Canadians is low.

Mosquitoes known to transmit the virus to humans are not known to be present in Canada. There have been some travel-related cases of the Zika virus reported to Canadian travelers returning from countries where the virus is known to circulate. However there have been no reported cases of locally acquired Zika virus in Canada.

The same type of tropical mosquito also transmits dengue and chikungunya. There have also been some documented cases of sexual transmission, and blood transfusions as a possible source of infection.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that all Canadian travelers visiting affected areas, particularly pregnant women, should help protect themselves against Zika virus by taking individual protective measures to prevent mosquito bites, including using insect repellent, protective clothing, mosquito nets, screened doors and windows.

For the latest information of cases in Americas visit the Pan American Health Organization’s website.

For the latest updates on countries affected by Zika virus, please visit the World Health Organization’s website.


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times as the Zika virus is transmitted by a mosquito that can bite in daylight and evening hours. Prevention measures include insect repellent, using bed nets, and wearing long-sleeved, loose fitting shirts tucked into long pants. For more information go to the webpage on insect bite prevention.
  • Pregnant women, and those considering becoming pregnant, should discuss their risk with their health care provider and consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating. If travel cannot be postponed, strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed due to the possible association between Zika virus infection and increased risk of serious health effects on their unborn baby.
  • If you develop symptoms similar to Zika virus infection when you are travelling, or after you return, see a health care provider and tell them where you have been travelling or living.

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