VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A doctor with the BC Centre for Disease Control is downplaying concerns over reports two pregnant women have contracted the Zika virus and are being closely monitored at the BC Women’s Hospital Reproductive Infectious Diseases Clinic.
David Patrick, a medical epidemiologist and director of the School of Population and Public Health at UBC, can’t give any specifics about how the women are being treated.
“I can’t confirm much about their management, but the referral pattern for careful observation is BC Women’s Hospital — that wouldn’t be in the hospital; they’ve got a good outpatient unit that can do special ultrasounds and things if the doctors feel it’s necessary.
Patrick says the overall situation with Zika seems be dying down. “We’re seeing lower rates of infection in Colombia and Brazil. We’re seeing a tail-off in the number of British Columbians returning from the south who have been tested.”
“Out of 635 people tested, just over one per cent have tested positive. So, there’s been a lot of concern and only a few infections. The seven people who’ve tested positive are in good health. The infection is over, as far as we can tell. There are two pregnancies among them that re being followed closely with no indication of problems at this point in time.”
He says infection tends to only last about a week.
“Eighty per cent of people have no symptoms. The people who do have symptoms will have fever, rash, joint aches and maybe sore eyes. But for the most part, [the symptoms are] over in about a week.”
“It lasts a little longer in some fluids, like semen, which is why it’s possible to have sexual transmission once in a blue moon, but that seems to clear out in 60 to 80 days,” adds Patrick.
He points out the epidemic would not exist if it weren’t for the mosquito.
“The vast majority of transmission — 99.9 per cent — is thanks to the mosquito in areas where that circulates. That said, like other communicable diseases, there are occasionally other patterns of transmission. We’ve seen case reports of sexual transmission — male to female and male to male — these are things that can happen. We counsel individuals about that, and it’s especially important if you’ve got a couple that’s trying to get pregnant. But they are not going to drive this epidemic.”
With the temperatures rising to record-highs in some parts of BC — and it’s only April — is there any worry about more mosquitoes this summer and their ability to transmit Zika here?
“We don’t have the right mosquitoes in BC at the moment that are capable of passing the virus around,” says Patrick.
“We could see more mosquitoes in the hot weather, if the moisture conditions are right. We’ll obviously be keeping an eye on what mosquitoes circulate and so, of course, will our American neighbours to the south. I think if we see Zika get into different mosquitoes… or begin to move up through the US, we’re going to hear about it. Our neighbours have an awfully good surveillance system for this sort of thing.”