Infectious disease experts explain facts about Zika virus
Beth Macdonell, CTV Winnipeg
Published Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:05PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, February 18, 2016 8:25PM CST
A group of leading infectious disease experts in Manitoba sat down to explain some of the facts about the Zika virus Thursday.
Obstetrician Dr. Craig Burym said Winnipeggers are anxious for guidance on travel to dozens of South and Central American countries which have reported the active virus.
"Our patients are nervous, cancelling trips left, right and centre," said Burym. "It's hard for us to say categorically the risk is so low, that it's fine to go, because we really don't know."
To understand Zika virus and microcephaly better, the International Centre for Infectious Diseases held a public panel at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne Campus.
"There's many viruses and suspected causes of microcephaly and there's lots that's unknown about why people get microcephaly," said Dr. Joel Kettner.
He said in 2015, Brazilian babies born with microcephaly were 20 times higher than previous years, but he said that rate is actually very similar to other countries-- including ones in North America.
It also depends where in the affected countries you travel. The chance of contracting Zika in a jungle is different than on a white sandy beach.
And, could Zika mosquitoes come to Manitoba? Not according Dr. Philippe Lagace-Wiens.
"Part of the life cycle of this virus has to be into the mosquito, and replicate or divide in that mosquito before it can transmit to a human, and there are no mosquitoes that service that purpose in Canada"
Doctors hope by relaying facts about Zika virus, travelers can make more informed decisions about where to fly.
Marisa and Lorenzo Melfi want to be parents one day. They say a trip to one of the affected countries is just not worth it.
"That's terrifying," said Marisa. "I wouldn't take the chance. I wouldn't put my baby or my future baby at risk," she said.
There is still much to learn about the virus. Medical experts want to know more about how the Zika virus moves from the placenta of a woman to the brain of the fetus, and how it may be spread through semen. Last month for example, twins were born in Brazil - one with a small head, one without.
The panel says after travelling to an affected country, men and woman should wait two months before trying to conceive.