As winter approaches Canadians often flock down south to soak up some much needed sun, but today that sunshine can come with risks for people who are trying to conceive. Currently many popular vacation destinations have travel advisories concerning the potential risks associated with the Zika virus.

According to Health Canada the Zika virus is predominantly spread through mosquito bites, however it is also spread through semen and from an infected, pregnant woman to her developing baby, as well as cell, blood and tissue donations from infected donors.[1] Symptoms of the Zika virus can include joint pain, fever, red rash and red eyes, however Zika may not present with any symptoms in some individuals.

Risks associated with Zika occur when a woman who has been infected with the Zika virus is pregnant or conceives while the virus is still in her system. The risks include a birth defect called microcephaly which occurs when the child/fetus is infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy. Microcephaly stunts brain development during pregnancy and after birth, and the birth defect often presents physically as an abnormally small head. The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention also indicates that other defects may occur such as “severe microcephaly where the skull has partially collapsed, decreased brain tissue with a specific pattern of brain damage, damage to the back of the eye, joints with limited range of motion such as clubfoot, and too much muscle tone restricting body movement soon after birth”.[2]

How to Lower Your Risks

If you are trying to conceive, or if you are pregnant, avoid traveling to areas that have travel advisories for the Zika virus, the majority of travel advisories have been issued in Mexico,  and Central and South America. Recent updates provided by Health Canada also indicate that the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are being found in the southern states in the USA including some popular destinations in Florida. If you are planning on travelling in these regions and are thinking of trying to conceive in the next year it is recommended you wait a minimum of  two months after traveling in an infected region before trying to conceive.

...Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, therefore: It is strongly recommended that, if you have a pregnant partner, you should use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy. It is strongly recommended that you and your partner wait to conceive for 6 months by using a condom or by avoiding having sex. It is recommended that you should consider using condoms or avoid having sex with any partner for 6 months.”[3]

Women who are trying to conceive after traveling in an area with a risk of Zika infection or whose partner has traveled to those areas should consider speaking with a medical professional who can guide them and potentially test for the Zika virus.

Staying current on the facts concerning the Zika virus is important, however there is a lot of misinformation out there that can cause doubt and panic. When looking for information look to Government health agencies that are constantly monitoring the situation and issuing info and alerts to the public.


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