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Zika Virus

Last Updated: April 24, 2023 

What is Zika Virus?

Zika virus is primarily passed onto humans by mosquitoes. However, this infection can be passed from human to human through sexual and vertical transmission (i.e. to fetus during pregnancy) even if no symptoms of illness are present. Similar to West Nile Virus (WNV), humans are not the natural hosts of this virus. There is limited current research that can point to the natural host of Zika virus, but several animals have been suggested such as – primates/monkeys, horses, cows, goats, ducks and bats.  

Zika virus is not known to circulate in Canada, but instances of infection occur abroad – therefore it is important to remain vigilant when travelling to countries where Zika virus is known to circulate. There is currently no cure for Zika, and cases of serious infection are treated with supportive care. 

Take measures to prevent mosquito bites when travelling, including: 

Who is Most at Risk for Severe effects of Zika Virus?

Zika virus can be dangerous for individuals who are pregnant and their fetus. A fetus with Zika virus is at risk for developing “Zika syndrome” characterized by various birth defects including microcephaly (a smaller than usual head) and associated reduced functions, development and physical complications. 

What are the Symptoms of Zika Virus?

While a fetus may experience severe disease, most individuals with Zika experience mild symptoms such as fever headache, pink eye or a rash. Some cases will not show any signs or experiences any symptoms. 

How is Zika Monitored in Canada?

Zika is not known to circulate in Canada. However, Zika is monitored in Canada through Mosquito Surveillance Programs. Canadian data remains sparse as this virus is not provincially reportable in Ontario nor nationally notifiable in Canada.