03/02/2016 03:51 EST | Updated 03/03/2017 05:12 EST

Zika Virus: Couples Visiting Hotspots Need To Put Pregnancy On Hold

TORONTO — The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising women who want to get pregnant to wait at least two months after visiting countries where the Zika virus is circulating — or could begin circulating — before trying to conceive.

The mosquito-borne virus has been potentially linked in Brazil to thousands of cases of newborns with abnormally small heads. It's believed mothers may have been infected during pregnancy.

Cases of Zika have reached epidemic levels in that country, most of South America, throughout Central America, parts of Mexico, and much of the Caribbean.

A number Canadians and Americans who travelled to the endemic areas have been diagnosed with Zika after returning home. And in a small number of cases, infected males have sexually transmitted the virus to their female partners.

Men should use condoms

The federal agency says men who have travelled to Zika hotspots or to countries where the virus might start circulating should use condoms with any partner who is or could become pregnant, for two months after their return.

PHAC says that until more is known, men who have a pregnant partner should consider using condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.

"It is recommended that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health-care provider to assess their risk and consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating and countries in tropical and subtropical regions where the virus has the potential to circulate," the agency says on its website.

If travel cannot be postponed, PHAC says strict mosquito-bite prevention measures should be followed, including wearing clothes to cover exposed skin and using a repellent such as DEET.


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  • Insect-Repellent Clothing
    Invest in some insect-repellent clothing that's also travel-friendly. Ex-Officio's Bugsaway line has pants, shorts, dresses and sweatshirts for men and women that are all treated with insect-shield technology to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. Plus, the travel-friendly fabrics are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, and quick drying.

    Another option is White Sierra's Bug Free line, which lives up to its name with clothes that offer protection from insects (and the sun—thanks to a UPF fabric shield) for 70 washes.

  • Permethrin Clothing Spray
    If you don't want to invest in a whole new wardrobe of insect-repellent clothing, treat what you already have with permethrin spray, a bug-repellent designed to be used on clothing and shoes (not skin!) that lasts through multiple washings. This spray from Sawyer Products is effective against mosquitoes, ticks, mites, and other bugs for six washings or six weeks, and it's as effective as 100 percent DEET. It's odorless after drying and won't stain or damage your clothing, so you can still wear them again after your trip.

  • Long-Sleeved Shirts and Pants
    The more covered your skin is, the harder it is for mosquitos to feast on you. Of course, it's likely to warm where the bugs are, which makes wearing long shirts and pants unappealing. Pack lightweight, light-colored clothing like these travel-friendly long-sleeve shirts, which can actually help you stay cooler than short sleeves thanks to their moisture-wicking properties.

    Bonus: Shirts and pants made from UPF fabric will also protect you from harmful UV rays. We like these pants from Coolibar, specifically designed to be worn in hot and sunny environments.

  • Travel Mosquito Bed Net
    The CDC recommends that you "sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites." Just because you're staying in a hotel room doesn't mean that mosquitos can't get in—whether it's via a hole in your window screen or just by flying in after you when you enter.

    This one from Emergency Zone is great for travel, as it just needs a single rope to hang from and folds into a small and lightweight nylon bag.

  • EPA-Registered Insect Repellent
    Not all bug sprays are created equally. Only some ingredients are actually scientifically proven to repel bugs. Check to see if your insect spray meets the requirements with this search tool from the EPA.

    One option is Repel 100, a spray with super concentrated DEET (98.11 percent) for heavy-duty bug conditions. The 1 oz. is perfect for travel and it protects for up to 10 hours, so you don't need a ton.

    For a more natural solution, look for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (which is one of the only non-chemical repellents recommended by the CDC), such as this travel-sized OFF! Botanicals lotion.

  • Mosquito Head Net
    You might look at the picture of this mosquito head net and scoff, thinking that you'd never be caught dead wearing one, but you might chance your mind if your destination is swarming with bugs.

    Small and lightweight, the Sea to Summit mosquito head net is made from a fine black mesh (which is easy to see through) and comes with its own small stuff sack for easy packing.

  • If you're flying carry-on only and don't want to worry about fitting your bug sprays in your 3-1-1 bag, insect repellent bands and wipes are a great alternative. For wipes, this 15 pack of Cutter All Family Mosquito Repellent is super affordable and contains DEET, so you'll be protected without spending tons of money.

    An alternative is the Mosquito Repellent bracelet, which is waterproof, non-toxic, and lasts for up to 200 hours.

    Read the original story: What to Pack if You're Traveling to a Zika Virus Zone by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

    Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.