First Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus Reported by Public Health Agency of Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada said a person from Ontario is believed to have contracted the virus through sex with a partner who traveled in an area affected by the disease. Read the full statement below from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

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Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care are confirming the first positive case of Zika virus transmitted sexually in Canada.

Testing at PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory confirmed the case. 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.

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.

We want to remind Canadians that there have been no confirmed cases of locally-acquired Zika virus through mosquitoes, and that the overall risk in Canada remains very low; mosquitoes known to transmit the virus are not established in Canada and are not well-suited to our climate. All confirmed Canadian cases of Zika virus occurred as a result of travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating.

This situation underscores the need for returning travellers from Zika-affected countries and their sexual partners to take precautions to protect themselves against the virus. Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. If travel cannot be avoided or postponed, strict mosquito bite prevention measures should be taken due to the association between Zika virus infection and increased risk of serious health effects on their unborn baby.

For travellers returning from countries with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks:

  • For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait:
    • at least 2 months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body; and,
  • For male travellers, Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, therefore:
    • it is strongly recommended that, if you have a pregnant partner, you should use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy;
    • it is strongly recommended that you and your partner wait to conceive for six months by using a condom; and,
    • it is recommended that you should consider using condoms with any partner for six months.

There remain many unanswered questions about the Zika virus that require further study and analysis since the science is constantly changing. We are working closely to monitor the situation and will update recommendations as new evidence emerges.

For additional information on Zika virus, please visit Canada.ca/zika-virus.