Zika virus: Advice for travellers
Updated: January 14, 2019
- Information on local transmission in the United States has been updated.
- List of regions in which Zika virus is a concern has been updated to include South Asia and East Africa.
- Recommendations for male travellers have been updated.
Zika virus is a concern in the following regions:
- The Caribbean
- Central America & Mexico
- South America
- South and Southeast Asia
- Ocean Pacific Islands
- Central and West Africa
To find out if a specific destination is an at risk area, consult the list of countries with recent or ongoing risk of Zika virus infection.
The United States reported cases of Zika virus infection transmitted locally by mosquitoes in the states of Florida and Texas in 2016 and 2017. No cases of locally transmitted Zika virus infection have been reported in the continental United States in 2018. At this time, transmission of Zika virus is considered a low risk in the continental United States.
About 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. However, a zika virus infection in a pregnant woman can pose significant risks to the unborn baby, even if the woman does not develop symptoms of infection. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects including abnormally small heads (microcephaly), brain abnormalities, vision and hearing loss, and more.
There have also been increased reports of a serious nervous system disorder in adults, called Guillain-Barré syndrome, in areas where the Zika virus is circulating.
Symptoms of Zika virus can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), skin rash and joint and muscle pain.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be spread from:
- A pregnant woman infected with Zika virus to her developing fetus.
- A person infected with Zika virus to a sexual partner.
- A person infected with Zika virus who donates cells, blood, tissue, sperm (semen) or organs.
There is no vaccine or medication that protects against or treats Zika virus infection.
Zika virus and pregnancy
Pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy should avoid travel to Zika-affected countries or areas. Zika virus infection during pregnancy increases the risk for serious birth defects since women can pass the virus to their unborn babies.
If you cannot avoid or postpone travel, talk to a health care professional about the risk of Zika virus infection in pregnancy and follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
The Zika virus can be sexually transmitted. Infected men can carry the Zika virus in their semen (even if they never had symptoms) for a prolonged period of time. Partners should be aware of the risk so they can make informed travel decisions and take appropriate precautions.
Before your trip:
- Consult the list of Zika-affected countries or areas to determine if there is a risk of Zika virus infection at your destination.
- Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel.
- Pregnant women should take special precautions to avoid infection with Zika virus. If you are pregnant, you should avoid travel to Zika-affected countries and areas.
During your trip:
- All travellers should prevent mosquito bites during the day, and night.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stay 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.
After your trip:
For female travellers:
- Go to a health care professional if you:
- have or develop symptoms of Zika virus infection, and
- are pregnant or become pregnant within 2 months of returning
- Tell your health care professional:
- where you’ve been living or travelling
- if you have had unprotected sexual contact with someone who could be infected with Zika virus
For women planning a pregnancy, it is strongly recommended that you wait at least 2 months after your return or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer) 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:
- If you have a pregnant partner, you should always use condoms correctly or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy.
- you and your partner should wait 3 months after your return or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer) before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
- you should always use condoms correctly or avoid having sex with any partner for 3 months after your return or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer).
Registration of Canadians Abroad
Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.
Information for Health Professionals
- Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel Canadian Recommendations on the Prevention and Treatment of Zika Virus
- Zika virus: For health professionals
- Assistance abroad – sickness or injury
- Travel advice and advisories
- If you get sick after travelling
- Safer condom use
- World Health Organization – Zika virus fact sheet
- World Health Organization – Zika virus disease
- World Health Organization – Zika virus classification tables
- Pan American Health Organization – Zika virus infection