Zika: Now What?

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How does the Zika virus affect Canadian fertility patients?

For now, it doesn’t have to. Today, Zika is not endemic to North America, so if neither you nor your partner travel outside of Canada, there are no direct concerns.

But many of us do travel.

If women have been to an endemic area, regardless of symptoms, Health Canada had been recommending birth control for 2 months. For men, it has been 6 months. Based on this advice, we have been refusing active treatment to patients who do not meet these criteria. The most up to date information is from March 2016 here.

But are we really saying that if men go to Mexico for a week, they cannot become fathers for six months? It’s a bold stance, one that could be more difficult to sustain when, it is anticipated, the lower US states become endemic this summer too.

What are “endemic areas”? Health Canada is keeping a list here and as of today, the United States isn’t on the list. Specifically, there are 0 endemic cases in the US as of April 13, 2016.

But the southern states are widely predicted to be endemic by this summer 2016. What does “southern states” mean? Does it mean, for example, you should not be visiting the US at all this summer, while trying to conceive? Does it mean a business trip to Houston in July means you cannot conceive until December?

No, it doesn’t mean that… not yet. The US isn’t considered endemic at this time, and I cannot help but think that Health Canada is going to revise its guidelines to account for personal responsibility and independent risk assessment. The United States too — where the issue is going to be very topical in the months ahead — is very publicly wrestling with their own advice for women hoping to conceive. For example, see this NYTimes article.

Information is changing quickly with regards to Zika. I will continue to do my best to keep you informed as to what it means for Canadian patients hoping to conceive.

Ultimately, we will defer to Health Canada recommendations, which can be found here. We continue to advise couples and individuals hoping to conceive to not travel to areas with endemic Zika exposure. There isn’t any treatment we can offer (IVF, for example) that would limit risks for an infected patient.

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