First Case of Sexually Transmitted Zika Confirmed in Canada

The first case of sexually transmitted Zika infection in Canada was confirmed on April 25, 2016 by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The first case of sexually transmitted Zika infection in Canada was confirmed in an official statement by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) on April 25, 2016.

Zika is a flavivirus spread to humans mainly by the Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito that carries the Chikungunya and Dengue viruses. Once an individual is infected with the virus, he or she can spread the virus to a partner through multiple modes of sexual contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other birth defects. Moreover, Zika is said to cause two neurological disorders: Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), however, the link is yet to be established.

The Ontario local contracted the Zika infection after their sexual partner returned from a country with active Zika transmission. After testing at the PHAC National Microbiology Laboratory confirmed Zika infection in the Ontario local, both the PHAC and the MOHLTC assured the public that the Ae. aegypti mosquito is not present within the country (due to the extremely cold climate), and so there is no possibility of local transmission within Canada. Furthermore, it was noted that all previously confirmed cases of Zika infection in Canada were due to travel to areas with active transmission.

The MOHLTC currently conducts laboratory testing for all individuals who show symptoms of the disease, regardless of travel history. Those traveling to areas with active transmission are advised to follow the necessary precautions to avoid infection, especially those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and their partners. Moreover, since Zika can remain in the semen for extended periods of time, the use of condoms during sexual interaction is strongly advised for 6 months after exposure.

Rohit Bhalla, DO, Chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at the University Medical Center of Princeton, provides information healthcare practitioners should know about diagnosing a Zika virus infection, particularly as the virus moves in the United States.​