In mid-November, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the Zika virus will no longer be treated as an international medical emergency. This statement was not a downgrade in the importance of Zika, but served as an acknowledgement that a long-term program is needed and that the search for a vaccine continues. In fact, they stressed that the mosquito-borne virus may rear its head again down the line.
Here in Canada, the risk of the Zika virus spreading locally continues to be negligible. To date, there have been:
- two locally acquired cases of the virus through sexual transmission,
- two maternal-to-fetal transmission cases, and
- 382 travel-related Zika virus cases in Canada.
Planning a trip? Stay tuned to travel health notices when making your travel plans. The Public Health Agency of Canada currently recommends that pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy continue to avoid travel to countries or areas of the United States with reported mosquito-borne Zika virus. If you are planning on travelling to such an area, ensure you protect yourself from mosquito bites.
On the research side of things, both the search for a vaccine and study of the virus is ongoing. Recently, CDC researchers have found evidence that the Zika virus can make thousands of copies of itself in fetuses’ brains and in the placentas of pregnant women, which may help explain how the virus causes devastating birth defects and pregnancy losses. This is the first time that we’ve seen the Zika virus’s RNA (genetic material) replicating in brain tissues of infants with microcephaly.
As the Zika virus is no longer considered an international medical emergency, updates will be given on an as-needed basis through our social media channels. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up-to-date and, as always, we’re happy to address any questions you may have!