Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!
Episode #122: Zika Virus Awareness for Canadian Workers
Introduction Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
Host: Since its recent outbreak in Brazil, the mosquito-borne Zika virus has received a lot of media attention highlighting the risk of birth defects in children born to infected mothers. Although the type of mosquito that can carry the Zika virus is not found in Canada and is not well-suited to our climate, Zika awareness is important for Canadian workers travelling in areas where the virus is present, or if they have intimate contact with someone who has been exposed to Zika.
So what exactly is the Zika Virus? Well, the Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus discovered in 1947 in rhesus monkeys in the Zika forest of Uganda. The first human cases were found in Uganda in 1952. The Zika virus is a flavivirus and is closely related to other mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and West Nile virus.
Let’s talk about the symptoms! The most common symptoms of the Zika virus disease are fever, rash, sore joints and conjunctivitis (inflamed, red eyes). However, the symptoms are often not detectable at all, and many who get Zika are unaware they even have it.
Following a bite from an infected mosquito, symptoms usually appear in 3–12 days. These symptoms can include fever, joint and muscle pain, skin rash, conjunctivitis, and headache. In general, a Zika virus infection is considered a mild illness that generally resolves within 2–7 days; 75–80% of people infected with the Zika virus do not display any symptoms.
If you're pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant soon, the risks are far greater. Zika virus infection has been linked to fetal death and birth defects such as microcephaly. In this situation, the baby of an infected mother is born with a smaller than normal head, and may have incomplete brain development.
Who’s at risk for infection? Canadians travelling to countries where Zika virus is present are at risk of infection. The level of risk depends on:
Based on current information, transmission through mosquitoes in Canada is exceedingly unlikely because the specific varieties of mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus are not native to Canada. However, there is potential for the virus to spread by sexual transmission through semen from infected men, or a cell, blood or tissue donation received from infected travellers returning from affected countries.
People who come into contact with the blood or other body fluids of infected individuals at work, for example health workers, may be at risk for becoming infected by Zika virus.
As of August 11, 2016, 205 travel-related cases, two locally acquired cases (through sexual transmission) and two maternal-to-fetal transmission cases have been reported in Canada. The case counts are updated weekly on the Government of Canada Zika surveillance website.
The best way to protect yourself from Zika and other mosquito borne illnesses is to prevent mosquito bites. Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants. Where you are able, reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, such as standing water.
Currently there is no vaccine or preventive immune treatment to protect against Zika virus infection.
Employers who have workers travelling to affected countries should:
Travellers to affected countries should:
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you and your partner should avoid travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. If travel can't be avoided or postponed, strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be followed. Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
For more information about the Zika virus, visit www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.