Zika virus is an arbovirus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. It was discovered in 1947 in a monkey in Uganda. Zika virus is mainly present in Central America and South America but also in Africa and Oceania.
Zika virus, what is it?
With the Zika virus, it is reporteded that nearly 3 out of 4 infections do not present any symptoms. When symptoms occur, it looks like the flu: fever, headache, body aches with rashes, beginning 3-12 days after being bitten by mosquitoes. Zika virus can also manifest as conjunctivitis or pain behind the eyes, as well as swelling of the hands or feet. The disease is not directly fatal.
Why are pregnant women particularly at risk?
If a pregnant woman is infected, she can pass the virus to her baby through the placenta or during birth.
It is suspected that pregnant women infected with the virus could give birth to babies with microcephaly. Babies are born with a head circumference below 33 cm and irreversible mental retardation.
However, there is no fully proven causal link between Zika and microcephaly and because some mothers do not believe they had the virus.
What precautions should you take?
There is no vaccine against the Zika virus. It is recommended to protect yourself against bites by wearing long clothing and using insect repellent and mosquito nets.
According to the official website of the Government of Canada (canadaensante.gc.ca)
No local transmission of Zika virus have been reported in Canada. At present, the mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus are not found in Canada because of the climate. So the likelihood of transmission is very low in the country.
Lassa fever could become a topic of much more serious concern
The media focus on the Zika virus is currently brings shadow on the epidemic of Lassa fever now raging in Nigeria and Benin. Lassa fever is a hemorrhagic fever often compared to the Ebola virus.
Low potential for contamination of surfaces
Zika virus is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites. However, hygiene and safety should follow their normal procedures including disinfection of high potential contamination of surfaces and hand washing.
Press release of the MSSS
On 29 January 2016, the national public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, also issued a statement to inform the public about Zika. You can read the detail here