Safety Information and Notices: Zika Virus Travel Guide

The most recent Zika virus outbreak that began in Brazil in early 2015 has the potential to spread across most of the Americas. As of May 2016, more than 50 countries and territories in the Americas, Oceania/Pacific Islands, and Africa have active Zika virus transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although people infected with Zika virus typically experience mild symptoms, a major cause of concern is the link between the mosquito-borne virus and serious birth defects in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant. Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive and plan to travel to areas with Zika virus should consult their doctor.

Travelers to these areas need to be aware of the following notices and safety information related to Zika virus. The most current information about Zika virus is available at

Zika Travel Notices

The CDC has three levels of travel health notices:

  • Level 1: Watch — Follow usual precautions for this destination.
  • Level 2: Alert — Follow enhanced precautions for this destination.
  • Level 3: Warning — Avoid all non-essential travel to this destination.

As of mid-June 2016, the following countries and territories have Level 2 notices.

Region Countries/Territories
 Cape Verde
The Caribbean Aruba; Barbados; Bonaire; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; Puerto Rico; Saint Barthelemy; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten; Trinidad and Tobago; U.S. Virgin Islands
Central America Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
The Pacific Islands American Samoa, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga
South America Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela

Some countries in Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Asia have endemic Zika, and the risk to travelers is likely much lower than it is in countries with Zika outbreaks. Travel notices have not been issued for the following countries, but may be considered if the number of cases rises to the level of an outbreak.

Region Countries/Territories
Africa Angola, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia
Asia Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
The Pacific Islands Easter Island, Vanuatu

Zika Travel Safety Information

Travelers in areas with Zika virus should adhere to the following information to prevent Zika virus infection and, if infected, the spread of Zika virus. Additional information for travelers is available from the CDC.

How to Prevent Mosquito Bites

Zika virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites. You can help prevent mosquito bites and Zika virus infection with the following steps.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net when overseas or outside and unable to protect from mosquito bites.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellants with one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.
  • To protect children from mosquito bites:
    • Don’t use insect repellant on babies younger than 2 months old.
    • Don’t use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
    • Dress children in clothing that covers arms and legs.
    • Cover crib, stroller and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
    • Don’t apply insect repellant to a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
    • Spray insect repellant onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Don’t use permethrin products directly on the skin.

If You Have Zika: How to Prevent Others From Getting Sick

Zika virus can be found in the blood during the first week of infection. During this time, Zika virus can be passed from an infected person to another through mosquito bites. The infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.

Strictly follow the aforementioned steps to prevent mosquito bites. A guide from the CDC elaborates on these points.

Zika can also be spread during intercourse by a man infected with Zika virus. Correct use of condoms during intercourse can help prevent the spread of Zika virus. The only way to prevent sexually transmitted Zika virus is by practicing abstinence.

After Traveling

Even if travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika virus don’t feel sick, they should prevent mosquito bites for three weeks to help prevent the spread of the virus to other people. Zika virus symptoms can be minimal, and there is the potential to spread the virus by infecting mosquitoes.

Men who have traveled to an area with Zika virus should use condoms for eight weeks to protect their partners. If they have Zika or develop Zika symptoms, men should use condoms for six months. If the man’s partner is pregnant, the couple should use condoms or practice abstinence during the pregnancy.

Women who have traveled to an area with Zika virus should wait eight weeks after travel before trying to conceive, whether or not they have Zika symptoms.

The Role of Public Health Professionals

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern,” a formal designation that has only applied to three other illnesses in the past — most recently to the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. As a result, public health professionals are concentrating on methods to raise awareness and help prevent the spread of Zika virus. Other efforts focus on developing affordable tests, a vaccine, safe treatment and better tools to respond to Zika virus.

Rivier University offers an online Master of Public Health to prepare public health professionals with the knowledge and skills to effectively deal with issues like Zika virus. Both programs take place in a convenient, flexible online format to accommodate students’ work and personal schedules.