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The Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory is keeping an eye on Zika Virus but says there is little threat it could come to Canada. Photo By Busayo Osobade

A recent case of the Zika virus reported in the United States has been linked to being transmitted through sex, not a mosquito bite.

In Saskatchewan, health officials are watching these developments closely.

Paul Levett, clinical director of the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory, said the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus are the type of mosquitoes that spread this virus.

He said it is theoretically possible for the virus to be transmitted sexually but the probability is low.

“Because the virus is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito and with this group of viruses, the multiplication that takes place in the mosquito. The amount of virus present in genital secretion in semen would be very small,” he said.

“The spread of the virus is limited by the distribution of the mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, and the key to controlling the spread of the virus is to control the mosquito populations,” said Levett.

Regina resident Omotayo Fola-Babalola, who is five month pregnant, said going to the affected countries is not one of the options she is considering now and that she is still scared, even though Canada has been ruled out as one of the countries that could be affected by this virus.

“That virus scares the hell out of me, but what gives me confidence is the fact that Canada is a developed country that can handle such an epidemic compared to other countries.

I avoid unnecessary insects, keep up to date with my pregnancy medications and I always ensure that I see my doctor,” she said.

Levett said that the Zika virus is a mild disease that only lasts for about 4 to 5 days and that there is little risk to anybody except for concerns about infections during pregnancy.

According to Levett, pregnant women in Canada should not be scared if they don’t travel to the affected countries because neither of these mosquitoes exists in Canada.

“If you have travel plans to any of the affected countries, consider very carefully the risk of being infected and also whether you actually need to travel. So if you are pregnant in Regina at the moment and if you can avoid travelling to one of the affected countries, then you make the risk absolutely minimal,” he said.

The virus, which is linked to birth defects in the Americas, is primarily spread through mosquito bites, and has more causal effect on pregnant women.

Although the Zika virus was declared an international health emergency on Feb.1, 2016 by Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, the mosquito-borne disease had also been ruled out to spread to Canada and Chile because of the cold climate in these countries.

Levett said Aedes albopictus, which is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, first made its way to the Americas through a shipment of used tires.

“Once you have a used tire, if it gets water in it, it’s difficult to get the water out, and mosquitoes can breed in that small amount of water,” said Levett.

According to WHO, the Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito in tropical regions. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime bitters but can also bite at night. They become infected when they bite the person they had already infected, and just one bite from an infected mosquito can spread the virus.