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Planning a winter getaway? Zika warnings remain in place as travel season looms

Planning a winter getaway? Zika warnings remain in place as travel season looms
From Global News - October 6, 2017

Public health warnings linked to the Zika virusremain in place this fall as many Canadians start booking their winter getaways to tropical zones where the virus is still present.

But a recent study conducted on behalf of the federal government reveals that while travellers are taking more steps to protect themselves, many people still dont know how to recognize the symptoms of Zika, understand how it spreads, or know why its so dangerous for pregnant women and unborn babies.

READ MORE:1 in 10 U.S. moms infected with Zika have babies with birth defects

A mutated version of the decades-old Zika virus has been causing severe birth defects in countries like Brazil since 2015, and scientists are still trying to understand how it became so dangerous so fast.

As of early September, there had been 523 travel-related cases of the virus reported in Canada and four sexually transmitted cases, including 37 pregnant women.

In its most recent public health notice, issued on Sept. 13, Health Canada advised all travellers heading to countrieswhere Zika has been identified to continue to take precautions especially if they are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.

These hot spots include, but are not limited to, popular winter getaway destinations like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, St. Lucia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and several other South/Central American and Caribbean nations.

Advisories in U.S. states like Texas and Florida were lifted over the summer, however, meaning those areas are now considered low risk.

Major knowledge gaps

The government survey, conducted at the end of last winters vacation season, revealed that overall, respondents were very aware of Zikas existence (91 per cent of the 2,000-person sample had heard of it).

Surprisingly, however, peopleof childbearing age were less aware of Zika than their oldercounterparts. Up to 25 per cent of respondents under age 45 said they had never heard of the virus.

WATCH:Heres how hard Zika virus hit Canadian tourists last year

Other findings showed similar gaps in knowledge when it comes to the spread of Zika. While 80 per cent ofrespondents were aware that you can contract Zika from mosquito bites, just 24 per cent knew you could get it from having unprotected sex, and only 21 per cent knew there was arisk associated with blood transfusions.

A small proportion of respondents (11 per cent) incorrectly believed you can contractthe virus by being sneezed or coughed on by a Zika-infected person, the report notes.

A single mutation?

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