Canadian health officials reported yesterday on the confirmation of the first positive case of Zika virus transmitted sexually in Canada. Testing at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) National Microbiology Laboratory confirmed the case. The individual from Ontario is suspected to have contracted the virus from a sexual partner who was diagnosed with Zika virus after travelling to an affected country.

Ontario map/public domain wikimedia commons
Ontario map/public domain wikimedia commons

As of April 25, 2016, 55 travel-related cases and 1 locally acquired case through sexual transmission have been reported in Canada.

Canada is the ninth country to report evidence of person-to-person transmission of Zika virus, other than mosquito-borne transmission (the eight others are: Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal and the United States of America).

Health officials remind Canadians that there have been no confirmed cases of locally-acquired Zika virus through mosquitoes, and that the overall risk in Canada remains very low; mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate. All confirmed Canadian cases of Zika virus occurred as a result of travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating.

This situation underscores the need for returning travellers from Zika-affected countries and their sexual partners to take precautions to protect themselves against the virus. Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. If travel cannot be avoided or postponed, strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be taken due to the association between Zika virus infection and increased risk of serious health effects on their unborn baby.

For travellers returning from countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks:

  • For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait:
    • at least 2 months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body; and,
  • For male travellers, 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 for the duration of the pregnancy;
    • it is strongly recommended that you and your partner wait to conceive for six months by using a condom; and,
    • it is recommended that you should consider using condoms with any partner for six months.