WATCH: Health officials warn people travelling to South American, Latin American and the Caribbean to be careful after Vancouver Island Zika case. Tess van Straaten reports.
A Vancouver Island resident has tested positive for Zika virus, which has been linked to serious birth defects and other health concerns.
This is the first case on Vancouver Island and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says seven British Columbians have now tested positive for Zika.
Due to the concerns, health officials are warning anyone travelling to South America, Latin American, the Caribbean and even parts of Asia to be careful.
The Zika virus first made headlines after a massive outbreak in Brazil last year, where babies are being born with unusually small heads — a condition called microcephaly.
It’s so serious, several regions have taken the unprecedented step of telling women not to get pregnant.
The disease — which is transmitted by mosquitoes — has since spread to many popular travel destinations, including Mexico and the Caribbean. The B.C. CDC says it can also be spread sexually.
The Vancouver Island case is the result of travel but Island Health won’t say where it was contracted or whether it’s one of two pregnant women in B.C with Zika, citing privacy concerns.
“I don’t think that it’s completely unexpected,” says Dr. Dee Hoyano of Island Health. “We know there have been cases already reported in other parts of Canada and we do know at this point all of those cases have been related to travel to Zika-affected areas. Any pregnant women or women wanting to get pregnant should re-evaluate whether they need to travel to those regions.
Precautions to reduce the chance of Zika virus
The Victoria Travel Health Clinic at Fairfield’s Heart Pharmacy says lots of people are coming in with questions and concerns.
There’s no vaccine for Zika, but there are precautions you can take.
“For travellers, we highly recommend mosquito repellent and mosquito nets,” says pharmacist and travel clinic director Lin Ma. “The Zika virus are transmitted by the same kind of mosquitoes transmitting dengue fever, chicken guna, so the only way to prevent is to use repellent — there’s no vacation or medications to prevent all these disease.”
Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and using mosquito nets at night is also recommended.
“These kind of mosquitoes are day bitters and they like indoors, so you have to take precautions during the day and at night,” says Lin. “They like cities as well so it’s not only the countryside.”
For more information on Zika: