Surveillance report of Zika virus among Canadian travellers returning from the Americas

CMAJ. 2017 Mar 6;189(9):E334-E340. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.161241.


Background: Widespread transmission of Zika virus in the Americas has occurred since late 2015. We examined demographic and travel-related characteristics of returned Canadian travellers with Zika infection acquired in the Americas to illuminate risk factors for acquisition and the clinical spectrum.

Methods: We analyzed demographic and travel-related data for returned Canadian travellers who presented to a CanTravNet site between October 2015 and September 2016 for care of Zika virus acquired in the Americas. Data were collected with use of the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network data platform.

Results: During the study period, 1118 travellers presented to a CanTravNet site after returning from the Americas, 41 (3.7%) of whom had Zika infection. Zika infection from the Americas was diagnosed at CanTravNet sites as often as dengue (n = 41) over the study period. In the first half of the study period, Zika virus burden was borne by people visiting friends and relatives in South America. In the latter half, coincident with the increased spread of Zika throughout the Caribbean and Central America, Zika virus occurred more often in tourists in the Caribbean. Forty (98%) of the travellers with Zika infection acquired it through probable mosquito exposure, and 1 had confirmed sexual acquisition. Congenital transmission occurred in 2 of 3 pregnancies. Two (5%) of those with Zika had symptoms resembling those of Guillain-Barré syndrome, 1 of whom also had Zika viral meningitis.

Interpretation: Even in this small cohort, we observed the full clinical spectrum of acute Zika virus, including adverse fetal and neurologic outcomes. Our observations suggest that complications from Zika infection are underestimated by data arising exclusively from populations where Zika is endemic. Travellers should adhere to mosquito-avoidance measures and barrier protection during sexual activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Americas / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Dengue / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mosquito Vectors
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / epidemiology
  • Travel*
  • Young Adult
  • Zika Virus
  • Zika Virus Infection / diagnosis
  • Zika Virus Infection / epidemiology*
  • Zika Virus Infection / transmission