CPHO Statement | Public health reminder for travellers

At this time of year, many Canadians are booking a getaway to warmer climates. I’d like to take a moment to remind those of you heading south, including the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, Ocean Pacific Islands, West Africa and areas in Florida, that there are simple steps you can take to protect you and your family’s health, making your trip more enjoyable and ensuring good health upon your return.

Before travelling, double check to make sure you and your family’s vaccinations are up-to-date. When you get to your destination, it is important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before you feel thirsty, take extra precautions when eating and drinking to avoid illness and practice sun and heat safety.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should consult a travel health clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure for a health assessment. Your health care provider will do an individual risk assessment for each family member to determine the needs for vaccinations or preventive medication.  They will provide advice, tailored to your health situation and travel itinerary-and educate you on measures you can take to avoid disease while travelling.

This year, it is especially important to be aware of and informed about the Zika virus, spread primarily by the bite of an infected mosquito.

The risk of Zika infection to travellers to affected countries is low and most people who are infected with Zika virus will only have mild symptoms that resolve with simple supportive care. However, all travellers should take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites to reduce your chances of being infected.

Most important, if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, protecting yourself from the Zika virus is critical to protect the health of your unborn baby. Zika virus can be transmitted from an infected pregnant woman to her developing fetus, increasing the risk of severe health outcomes for the baby, such as microcephaly. Therefore, pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries or areas in the United States with reported mosquito-borne Zika virus infection.

In addition, Zika virus can be sexually transmitted, and the virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males which is why it is also important for Canadians planning a pregnancy to take precautions.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is closely monitoring countries and regions reporting mosquito-borne cases of Zika virus. For additional guidance on special precautions you should take, please consult our Travel Health Notices posted online at Travel.gc.ca.

Dr. Theresa Tam
Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer

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