During winter, many Quebecers are planning a trip down South to escape the cold and the snow. Now that the zika virus is present in most of the travel destinations beloved by travelers, including Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, couples who are pregnant or who wish to conceive should make sure to choose a zika-free destination or stay at home!
The zika virus can cause severe complications to an unborn child, namely microcephaly. Babies born with microcephaly have an abnormally small head often associated with intellectual disability and other neurological complications. The risk of the baby having zika-induced microcephaly appears to be greatest at the beginning of the pregnancy, when the brain develops.
We also know that the zika virus can be transmitted during sexual intercourse and can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, Therefore, sanitary agencies, such as Health Canada and the World Health Organization, strongly recommend that men who have travelled to zika-infested areas take precautions if their partner is pregnant or wishes to conceive. If their partner is already pregnant, they should use a condom for the duration of the pregnancy. If they wish to conceive, they should postpone their project for at least 6 months by using a condom (or avoiding having sex).
For healthy travelers with no plan of conceiving in the near future, travel to a zika-infested area is probably safe. Zika virus infection is typically mild and lasts only a few days and the majority of those infected do not have symptoms. To be on the safe side, all travelers should protect themselves about mosquito bites.