Zika Virus – What you need to know

What is Zika virus?

Zika virus infection is a mosquito-borne disease that is it is spread by mosquitoes infected with the virus. In 2015, there was an outbreak reported in Brazil and Columbia.  Zika virus infection may or may not cause symptoms. If symptoms develop, they are mild and last 2-7 days. The main symptoms include:

  • fever
  •  rash
  • muscle or joint pain
  • red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • pain behind the eyes
  • headache
  • general weakness, lack of energy

Recently, there have been some cases in Brazil which suggest Zika virus infection in pregnant women can cause birth defects, like incomplete brain development and abnormally small heads (or microcephaly). Therefore, caution is advised for pregnant women to avoid travel to areas with Zika virus outbreaks.

Areas with Zika virus:

  • Central America
  • South America (Brazil and Columbia in particular)
  • Caribbean
  • Mexico
  • Africa
  • Asia


Currently, there are no vaccines available for prevention. If travelling to areas with known Zika transmission, use the following protective measures to prevent mosquito bites:

Insect repellents:

  • Use products with DEET, Icardin/Picardin and/or Oil of Lemon Eukalyptus (ex: OFF!, Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard)
  • DEET products should NOT be used for children under 6 months; use Soybean oil instead
  • DEET + 10% for children under 12 yrs; + 30% for adults
  • Spray 20 – 30 minutes AFTER sunscreen
  • Avoid insect repellents during pregnancy and breastfeeding. See Other Measures

Other measures:

  • Avoid places with mosquitoes like standing water
  • Wear protective clothing: light-coloured clothes, long-sleeved shirts, full pants, close-toed shoes
  • Use mosquito nets

Special Population: Pregnancy

Pregnant women or those planning pregnancy should avoid travel to places with Zika virus outbreaks. If travel cannot be avoided, consult your healthcare provider and use prevention strategies mentioned above.

Special population: Infants/Children

  • Do not use insect repellents on children under 2 years
  • For children older than 2 years, do NOT apply insect repellent on hands, eyes, mouth and open/cut skin
  • Dress the child in protective clothing (light coloured-clothing, long-sleeved shirts, full pants, and close-toed shoes)
  • Cover crib/stroller with mosquito net

For more information on Zika virus or for help in choosing the right insect repellent for you and your family, contact your pharmacist.

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