The first case of the Zika virus via sexual transmission has been confirmed in Canada, said the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in a statement released Monday.
According to Monday’s joint statement between Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health, the patient, a woman from Ontario, Canada, is believed to have contracted the Zika virus after having sex with a man who had become infected while travelling to a country where the virus was prevalent. The woman’s diagnosis was later confirmed by PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. No further details on the patient have been made public due to privacy requirements.
“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.”
Although Canada has recorded 55 confirmed cases across the country — not including this first case of sexually transmitted infection — the Public Health Agency of Canada urges Canadians not to worry, as none of the confirmed cases of Zika in Canada were locally acquired through mosquitoes. In fact, the overall risk to Canadians remains “very low” owing to the fact that the mosquitoes that carry the virus aren’t found in Canada, nor are they particularly well-suited to survive the Canadian climate.
CTV News reports that the Ontario woman who was infected with Zika through sexual transmission is the first such case confirmed in Canada, but it may not be the only one. In March, Saskatchewan’s deputy chief medical health officer stated that they were in the process of investigating another case of Zika acquired through sexual transmission, but the National Microbiology Laboratory had not finished running their tests yet.
“The Saskatchewan case remains under investigation. It hasn’t yet been confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, PHAC’s release stated that though a bite from an infected mosquito is still the primary way to contract the Zika virus, sexual transmission is “to be expected” given that there have been confirmed cases of sexually transmitted infection in other countries.
“While bites from infected mosquitoes remain the primary way to get Zika virus, sexual transmission of the virus is to be expected given that a small number of cases have been reported elsewhere in the world.”
Of the 55 confirmed cases of Zika in Canada, all were infected while travelling to countries where the virus has become endemic — South and Central America, parts of Mexico and the Caribbean — including two pregnant women from British Columbia. Due to the Zika virus’ confirmed connection to microcephaly, a congenital condition that causes an abnormal smallness of the head of infants, PHAC as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States urge women who already are or planning to become pregnant to avoid travel to countries where Zika is widespread. Further, it is suggested that women who plan to become pregnant but who have tested positive for Zika wait at least two months before trying to conceive. Additionally, since the virus can survive in semen for an extended period of time, men who have been infected are advised to wear a condom for at least six months following contraction to prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus.
Those who contract Zika typically show no or very few symptoms, which include fever, joint pain, rash, and red eyes, that can last about a week. Recently, the CDC confirmed that Zika is a cause of the birth defect microcephaly, and it has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition that causes muscle weakness and sometimes even paralysis.
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