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Travel health

07 March 2019

Pregnancy: Am I at risk for Zika?

Zika virus information

Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. 

Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.

Zika can also be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners, even if the person doesn’t have symptoms.

There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.


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What are the latest international recommendations for preventing Zika virus in pregnant women or planning to become pregnant?

Pregnant women and couples trying to become pregnant within 3 months of travel should work with their travel health professional (member fo Travel Health Assist) to carefully consider the risks and possible consequences of travel.

Pregnant women should take special precautions to avoid infection with Zika virus. If you are pregnant, you should avoid travel to Zika-affected countries and areas.

If you decide to travel, avoid mosquito bites and sexual exposure to Zika.

If you travel without a male partner, wait 2 months after return before becoming pregnant.

If your partner is pregnant: Prevent mosquito bites. Use condoms or do not have sex for the rest of the pregnancy.

If you and your partner are planning a pregnancy: Prevent mosquito bites. Uou should always use condoms correctly or avoid having sex with any partner for 3 months after your return or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer). The waiting period is longer for men because Zika stays in semen longer than in other body fluids.

Source: CDC Zika Travel Information

Source: Canada: Travel Health Notices: Zika 


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How to prevent a Zika virus infection?

The risk is higher during the day: Mosquitoes that spread chikungunya, dengue and zika are more aggressive during the day but can also bite at night.

Use an insect repellent recommended by your travel health professional.

Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved, loose fitting, tucked-in shirts, long pants, shoes or boots (not sandals), and a hat.

Stay in a well-screened or completely enclosed air-conditioned room.

If mosquito entry into living quarters cannot be otherwise prevented (e.g. by screening): Use a bed net (e.g. for sleeping or resting inside), preferably treated with insecticide.

Apply a permethrin insecticide to clothing and other travel gear for greater protection:

Although permethrin clothing treatments are not widely available in Canada, travel health clinics can advise you how to purchase permethrin and pre-treated gear before or during your trip.

Permethrin-treated clothing is effective through several washes.

Always follow label instructions when using permethrin.

Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

Source: Health Canada: Zika virus Prevention 


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When traveling, whatever your destination or physical condition, a travel  consultation with a trained health professional is expected at least 6 weeks before your departure.

Christine Dumontet RN

President of Dumontet CSV and founder of Travel Health Assist.