Risks of Zika virus

Learn what the risks of Zika virus are and who's most at risk.

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What are the risks of getting Zika virus?

The risk to Canadians living in Canada who do not travel is very low. There are no reports of mosquitoes spreading Zika virus in Canada. The mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus aren't established in Canada due to our colder climate.

However, there's an ongoing, low level of risk to Canadians, especially those who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, travelling to areas with reported mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Who is most at risk?

If you're travelling to countries or areas in the U.S. with reported mosquito-spread Zika virus, you're at risk of being infected. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite during daylight and evening hours. These mosquitoes generally don't live at elevations above 2,000 metres, so your risk is very low at higher altitudes.

Exposure to Zika virus during fetal development increases the risk of severe health outcomes. Special precautions to protect a developing fetus from exposure to the Zika virus must be taken by:

What are the risks of complications?

Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a week. However, Zika virus can remain in semen for up to six months.

Only 1 in 4 people infected with Zika virus are believed to develop symptoms.

Zika virus can cause:

  • Congenital Zika syndrome and severe birth defects in babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy, such as:
    • hearing loss
    • club foot and contracted limbs
    • incomplete brain development
    • abnormal development of the eyes
    • abnormally small heads (microcephaly)
    • other neurologic abnormalities including irritability, seizures and spasticity
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)

There is currently no evidence that the virus:

  • will cause infections in a baby conceived after the virus is cleared from the blood of an infected mother
  • poses a risk of birth defects for future pregnancies
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