Bioethics Blogs

Why Zika Matters to Canada

Gaëlle Groux and Steven J. Hoffman discuss three ways that Canada can help stem the spread of the Zika Outbreak.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that clusters of microcephaly that are possibly linked to the Zika virus constitute a “public health emergency of international concern.” This virus has captured the attention of the international community because thousands of babies are being born with underdeveloped brains to women who were infected with Zika during their pregnancy.

Should Canadians be worried? For now, WHO says no, because our country doesn’t harbour the mosquito types that spread the disease, aedes aegypti and albopictus. But Canadians shouldn’t be too complacent about the spread of the virus. Here’s why.

For starters, Canadians are not entirely off the hook within Canada. Mosquitoes carrying Zika could in the future spread here too. Aedes albopictus is an invasive species and increasingly warm climates could allow them to migrate farther north. Researchers are also investigating the possibility that a mosquito native to Canada, the Aedes culex which already transmits viruses of the same family as the Zika virus, could be a cause for concern.

And then there’s travel. The Canadian government has advised Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution” in most South American travel destinations, and some travel doctors are advising pregnant women to avoid travel to affected countries altogether. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, when confirming the province’s first case of Zika recently, went so far as to advise all travelers heading to affected areas to first consult their healthcare providers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.