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What is it

Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.1 The mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika live in many parts of the world.1 Areas with risk of Zika virus include South America, Africa and South Asia.2

Who is at risk

Risk to Canadians living in Canada who do not travel is very low. The mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus aren’t established in Canada.3 Those who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or are traveling to areas with risk of Zika are at a higher.3 Zika infection during pregnancy can cause fetuses to have birth defects.3

What are the symptoms

Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms.1 Symptoms usually appear between 3 to 12 days after infection and lasts for 2 to 7 days.4 The most common symptoms include:4

  • Low grade fever (38.5oC or lower)
  • A flat, red rash on the skin covered with small bumps
  • General weakness, lack of energy
  • Short term muscle or joint pain
  • Possible joint swelling, mainly in smaller joints of hands and feet

How is it spread

Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.1 Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to others through bites.1

The Zika virus can also by spread by:1

  • An infected, pregnant woman to her developing fetus
  • Sexual transmission from a person who has Zika to his or her partners
  • Through blood transfusions

There have been no reports to date of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding.5

How is it prevented

No specific vaccine for the prevention of Zika virus.1

  • Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites at all times when travelling to countries/areas with reported Zika virus.6
  • Prevent sexual transmission by consistently and correctly using condoms which reduces the chance of getting Zika.6
  • Avoid travel to areas with Zika virus if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy as the virus poses health risks to a developing fetus.6

Travellers returning from Zika-affected areas:

  • For women: if you want to become pregnant, strongly recommended to wait at least 2 months prior to trying to conceive.6
  • For men: strongly recommend the use of condoms for 6 months after travel or avoid having sex.6

Travellers returning from Zika-affected areas should wait a minimum of 21 days before donating cells, blood, tissues and/or organs.6

How is it treated

There is no specific treatment for Zika, only supportive care to relieve symptoms including:1

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Avoid taking a pain reliever that contains acetylsalicyclic acid (ASA) until infection with dengue virus has been ruled out by your healthcare provider.7 [Ref 78.4. Gov of Can Treatment of Zika]

Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. For further information regarding Zika, please speak with your healthcare provider.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus. Print Resources. Zika Basics. (2017) ¬ PDF found on this page. https://www.cdc.gov/zika/fs-posters/index.html
  2. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. World Map of Areas with Risk of Zika. (2017) https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika
  3. Government of Canada. Risks of Zika Virus. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/zika-virus/risks-zika-virus.html
  4. Government of Canada. Symptoms of Zika Virus. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/zika-virus/symptoms-zika-virus.html
  5. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika Virus. Transmission & Risks. (2017) https://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/index.html
  6. Government of Canada. Prevention of Zika Virus. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/zika-virus/prevention-zika-virus.html
  7. Government of Canada. Treatment of Zika Virus. (2017). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/zika-virus/treatment-zika-virus.html