News / Toronto

Climate change could bring Zika to Canada: York prof

The mosquito responsible for spreading the virus can't survive in Canada's climate, but that could change.

The yellow fever mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti, is responsible for spreading the Zika virus. The mosquito cannot survive Canadian temperatures, but a York University professor says that could be changing.

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The yellow fever mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti, is responsible for spreading the Zika virus. The mosquito cannot survive Canadian temperatures, but a York University professor says that could be changing.

Torontonians have little to fear from the Zika virus — at least for now.

But, give it a 100 years or so, and it could be a different story.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for spreading the disease – which has been linked to a spike in birth defects in Brazil – cannot survive in Canada’s cooler climate. However, as global temperatures continue to rise, that could change, says York University professor Huaiping Zhu.

Zhu’s research involves the mathematical modelling of mosquito populations. He says cousin species of Aedes aegypti are established as far north as southern Ontario, and if temperatures continue to warm, it’s possible the mosquito could arrive in Canada within the next century.

“We’re trying to determine under what conditions and when the Zika virus will become a problem in Canada,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control have recently confirmed the virus — which typically lies in the human body for about 10 days — can also be transmitted sexually. If Zika does arrive in Canada, Zhu said that would be the likely vector.

“You need to be careful if you travel to the endemic zone,” he said.

Or, put more bluntly: “People need to wear condoms.”

Weather has might already have played a role in Zika’s spread. Warmer temperatures are ideal for mosquito breading and might have lead to the outbreak in Brazil, he said. 

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