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Canada Reports Four Zika Cases in Travelers to Latin America

The Zika virus has reached Canada in the form of four Canadian travelers confirmed to have contracted it by visiting Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

The announcement came from Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Gregory Taylor, on Friday. CBC News reports two of the cases are in British Columbia, one in Alberta, and one in Quebec.

According to Quebec’s public health director, the case in his region involves a woman who was not pregnant, but showed some Zika symptoms before recovering. The symptoms in adults are relatively mild – including fever, rash, pink-eye, or joint and muscle pain for a few days – and even those symptoms only manifest in 20 to 25 percent of patients.

However, some adult patients have reported far more severe reactions to the virus, and there is a suspected correlation between Zika and birth defects, including paralysis and microcephaly.

CBC reported the growing Zika panic did not seem to be changing the travel plans of many Canadians. The recent weakness of the Canadian dollar in the U.S. prompted many vacationers to choose Caribbean destinations instead, and travel agents report few cancellations since news of the Zika virus began spreading.

“People are just wanting to be more informed about it, but they’re not backing away from going away, or cancelling,” Mary Jane Hiebert of the Canada One Travel agency told CBC, describing a lone cancellation from a woman who discovered she was pregnant after booking a trip to the Caribbean. Several vacation companies said they would offer cancellation or reschedule options for pregnant women but have reported few takers so far.

An important factor in Canadians’ reaction to the Zika outbreak mentioned by CBC is that Brazil and Costa Rica, at the center of the epidemic, are not popular travel destinations for Canadians. They prefer Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Also, winter travelers have confidence in the ability of the resorts they prefer to control mosquito populations, which are the transmission system for Zika.

The Canadian government has, however, joined the United States in issuing a travel warning for the outbreak area, recommending that “pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health care provider to assess their risk and consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating in the Americas.”

Those who insist on traveling to the Caribbean are encouraged by the Public Health Agency of Canada to follow “strict mosquito bite prevention measures,” and reminded there is not yet a “vaccine or medication that protects against Zika virus infection.”

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