Zika virus: Advice for travellers


Level 2 - Practise enhanced health precautions (more details)



Original publication date: January 28, 2014

Updated: June 28, 2022

Note

  • The Current Situation and Health Professionals sections have been updated.

Current Situation

Zika virus continues to be a concern in many parts of the world. Transmission can occur in most areas of the world where the mosquito Aedes aegypti, the principal vector, occurs. This means that there is the potential for transmission through much of the tropical and subtropical world and beyond.

The risk of transmission to travellers is considered low.

To find out if your destination is a country or area with risk of Zika virus, consult the Travel Advice and Advisories page, and select your destination. Information on diseases spread by insects, such as Zika virus, is found under the ‘Health’ tab.

Zika virus

Zika virus typically causes mild illness lasting only a few days. Many people who are infected have no symptoms and do not know that they have been infected. Only 1 in 4 people infected with Zika virus develop symptoms.

Symptoms of Zika virus infection often include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • skin rash
  • joint and muscle pain

A Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman can pose significant risks to the unborn baby, even if the woman does not develop any symptoms. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects including microcephaly (an abnormally small head), brain abnormalities, vision and hearing loss, and more. When some of these birth defects are present together, the condition is called Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS).

There have also been increased reports of a serious nervous system disorder in adults, called Guillain-Barré syndrome, in countries and areas with risk of Zika virus.

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

  • A pregnant woman infected with Zika virus passing the virus to her unborn baby.
  • A person infected with Zika virus passing the virus through sexual contact. This includes contact with semen, vaginal fluid, blood or other body fluids during vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom. This may also include the sharing of sex toys.
  • A person infected with Zika virus who donates cells, blood, tissue, sperm (semen) or organs.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medication to treat infection with Zika virus. Symptoms, when present, will typically resolve on their own within a few days. Treatment aims to relieve symptoms.

Recommendations

For pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy

Zika virus infection during pregnancy increases the risk for serious birth defects since women can pass the virus to their unborn babies.

Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional at least 6 weeks before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to a country or area with risk of Zika virus. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to these areas.

Zika virus can be sexually transmitted. Infected men with or without symptoms, can carry Zika virus in their semen for a prolonged period of time. Partners should be aware of the risk so they can make informed travel decisions and take appropriate precautions.

Pregnant women should always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to a country or area with risk of Zika virus for the duration of their pregnancy.

For all travellers to countries or areas with risk of Zika virus

Before your trip

  • Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before you travel.

During your trip

  • Prevent mosquito bites at all times. The mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite during the day and night. They are generally not found at altitudes above 2,000 metres. Be sure to
    • Use approved insect repellent and apply it properly
    • Cover up by wearing light-coloured, loose clothing, long pants and tucked-in long-sleeved shirts with closed-toe shoes or boots and a hat.
    • Sleep in indoor areas that are completely enclosed or well-screened.
    • Use mosquito netting (bed net) when sleeping outdoors or staying in a building that is not completely enclosed and to cover playpens, cribs or strollers.
    • Learn more about mosquito bite prevention for travellers.
  • Always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact while in countries or areas with risk of Zika virus.

After your trip

Women

  • where you have been living or travelling, and
  • if you have had unprotected sexual contact with someone who could be infected with Zika virus.
  • Always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact for 2 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
  • Before trying for a pregnancy, wait 2 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer), to reduce the risk of passing the virus to your unborn baby. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer), to reduce the risk of sexual transmission.

Men

  • where you have been living or travelling, and
  • if you have had unprotected sexual contact with someone who could be infected with Zika virus.
  • If you have a pregnant partner, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • Before trying for a pregnancy or donating semen, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer), to reduce the risk of sexual transmission.
  • In all other situations, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact for 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).

Information for Health Care Professionals

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.


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