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Zika Virus Infection


Zika virus infection is caused by Zika virus (ZIKV). It is spread mainly by mosquito bites and less commonly from having sex without a condom. The infection is usually mild, but in pregnancy may cause serious problems in the unborn baby.

Recommendations for Travellers

Before planning your trip, you should check on the fitfortravel country pages:

  • the 'Alerts' section which will highlight if there is a risk of ZIKV transmission
  • the 'News' section which will highlight if there have been outbreaks of ZIKV in the country

If the country you are visiting has a risk of ZIKV transmission, then there is a chance you could become infected, so before booking your trip, you should consider:

  • mosquito bite avoidance measures, as these will reduce your risk of infection
  • travel insurance, to ensure you can cancel the trip if you become pregnant and cannot travel, and so you can receive medical care whilst away
  • any additional travel recommendations for pregnant travellers or those planning pregnancy and for preventing onward sexual transmission:
    • these are also detailed in the 'Alerts' section of affected country pages

If you are concerned about the risk of ZIKV during travel, especially if you are pregnant, or planning pregnancy then you should seek travel advice from a travel health professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before travelling.

There is no medicine or vaccine currently available that prevents ZIKV infection.

Mosquito Bite Avoidance

The mosquitoes that transmit ZIKV mainly bite from sunrise to sunset. They are particularly persistent and aggressive biters. Try to protect yourself against mosquito bites both during the day and at night, especially if you are pregnant. This involves:

  • using a good quality insect repellent
    • repellents containing the ingredient DEET are safe to use in pregnancy
  • wearing the right clothing to protect your skin from bites
  • using a mosquito net whenever you are resting or sleeping (day or night)
  • reducing the number of mosquitos in and around your accommodation

Further information is available on the mosquito bite avoidance page.

Travel Insurance

You should only travel if you have adequate travel insurance to cover your trip.

If you are pregnant, you should also:

  • check that conditions related to your pregnancy are covered under your policy before booking any travel
  • be aware that the risk of ZIKV in any country may change during the time between planning your trip and travelling

Additional Travel Recommendations

These are based on the risk of transmission of ZIKV in a country which are listed under 'Alerts' on affected country pages.

For travel to countries with a risk of ZIKV transmission:

If you are pregnant, depending on the level of risk within a country, you will be advised to either:

  • postpone non-essential travel
  • consider postponing non-essential travel

If you are planning pregnancy or there is a possibility you may be pregnant, you should use contraception and condoms during travel and for:

  • 2 months afterwards if you are female
  • 3 months afterwards if you are male

These measures reduce the chance of sexual transmission of ZIKV and/or the risk of ZIKV infection in pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and are considering travelling to a country or area with a risk of ZIKV transmission you should discuss the risk of ZIKV with a travel health professional so you can make a fully informed decision regarding your travel plans. You should also:

  • remember that other travel related diseases, including malaria, may be present in ZIKV affected countries, and can be serious, particularly if you are pregnant
  • use condoms to prevent sexual transmission of ZIKV during travel and throughout your pregnancy

After Travel

Seek medical advice quickly if you become unwell with a high temperature (fever) either while you are travelling or after you arrive home. Tell the health professional about your recent trip and that you have travelled to a country affected by ZIKV.

If you are pregnant, you should arrange to see your GP or midwife for a check-up when you arrive home, even if you are feeling well.

If you have returned from a country with a risk of ZIKV transmission, or you have been diagnosed with ZIKV, you should follow guidelines for reducing sexual transmission by using contraception and condoms for:

  • 2 months afterwards if you are female
  • 3 months afterwards if you are male

You cannot donate blood for a while after return from a country with a risk of ZIKV transmission. You can find out more about blood donation and travel from:

Overview of Disease

Zika infection is caused by the Zika virus (ZIKV).

Infection is caught from mosquito bites. It is the Aedes species of mosquitoes that can carry ZIKV. These mosquitoes predominantly bite during the day, and can also transmit dengue fever, chikungunya fever and yellow fever.

Rarely ZIKV can be transmitted during sex without a condom.

Becoming infected with ZIKV during pregnancy can lead to congenital zika syndrome, which is a condition with severe consequences for the baby.

ZIKV was first discovered in Africa and has been occasionally noted in countries in Africa and Asia since then.

  • The first outbreaks of ZIKV occurred in the Pacific islands.
  • In 2015 to 2016 the largest known outbreak of ZIKV affected the whole of Central and South America, the Caribbean and some parts of North America.

The Illness

Most people infected with ZIKV will have only very mild, or no symptoms.

Symptoms usually start 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito and typically last for 2 to 7 days.
Symptoms can include:

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • mild fever
  • headache
  • red eyes
  • muscle and joint pains

Other less common symptoms can include: loss of appetite, diarrhoea, constipation, tummy pain and dizziness.


There is no specific treatment for ZIKV infection available.

  • Most people will get better without any treatment.
  • Symptoms like headache and fever can be treated at home using over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol.

Hospital care is only required in people who develop severe symptoms or complications.


For additional information on treatment of ZIKV in the UK see:

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