Zika virus: Advice for travellers

Released: September 13, 2017


What is Zika?

Zika is a virus spread by mosquitos. It causes an infection that is typically mild and lasts only a few days. Symptoms of Zika virus can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), skin rash and joint and muscle pain. Many people who are infected do not have symptoms.

Why should you be concerned?

Zika can cause serious birth defects including abnormally small heads (microcephaly), brain abnormalities, vision and hearing loss, and more.

Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.  It can also be spread from:

There have also been increased reports of a serious nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome in areas where the Zika virus is circulating.

There is no vaccine or medication that protects against or treats Zika virus infection. 

Who should be concerned?

Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to countries with recent or ongoing risk of Zika virus. The Zika virus infection increases the risk for serious birth defects. Women can pass the virus to their unborn babies.

The Zika virus infection can be sexually transmitted and men can carry the Zika virus in their semen for up to 6 months. Partners should be aware of the risk so they can make informed travel decisions and to take appropriate precautions. 

How can you protect yourself from Zika virus?

Before your trip:

Consult the list of countries to determine the risk of Zika virus infection at your destination.

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

During your trip:

All travellers should prevent mosquito bites during the day and night when travelling to countries or areas at risk for Zika.

The mosquito that transmits the Zika virus usually bites during the day but can also bite at night. It is generally not found at altitudes above 2,000 meters. 

After your trip:

See your health care provider, if you have symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection.

For pregnant women, if you develop symptoms that could be consistent with Zika virus infection, you should consult a healthcare provider.

For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait at least 2 months before trying to conceive to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.

For male travellers, Zika virus can persist for an extended period of time in the semen of infected males, therefore it is strongly recommended that:

Information for Health Professionals

Useful resources for clinical guidance:

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