Just when we thought we had enough things to worry about... the Zika virus. We've known about it since the 1950s. It's found in certain mosquitoes in warm climates. If you get bitten by a Zika virus-carrying mosquito, you'll likely have no symptoms. About 20% of those bitten will develop a flu-like illness. After you are bitten, you can carry the virus in your body for up to three months, but most people carry it for less than two weeks. During the time the virus is in your body, you can transmit it to others: men can transmit it sexually, pregnant women can transmit it to their fetus, and it can also be transmitted through blood (e.g. blood donors).
If a pregnant woman transmits the virus to her fetus, the fetus may develop microcephaly. Microcephaly is a serious neurologic condition associated with seizures, intellectual disability, hearing loss, vision problems, problems with movement, and more. While the correlation between Zika virus infection and fetal microcephaly is not strong, there is reasonable evidence of a link. Enough evidence to caution pregnant women about Zika exposure.
Fortunately the mosquitos that can carry Zika are not found in Canada. Instead, transmission to Canadians happens if they travel, or if a contact has travelled to a Zika-region. The CDC has mapped out the Zika regions here:
So to avoid getting sick from Zika, stay away from these regions for now. Men who have been to these regions should use a condom for three months after their return to Canada. Women should delay trying to conceive for three months after their return.
We are getting phone calls every day from people who want to conceive but have travelled to a Zika region. They may or not have gotten the flu-like illness. It is safest to assume Zika exposure (whether you got the flu-like illness or not) and wait for three months before trying to conceive.