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Travelling to the Americas? Concerned about Zika?

Zika iconTravelling to the Americas? Concerned about Zika?

A disease linked to the Zika virus in the Americas now presents a global public health emergency.  Pregnant women in particular are advised not to travel to areas where there are current outbreaks of the virus.

In the meantime, our multilingual teams of assistance, medical and travel experts are ready and waiting to help if you are adversely affected by the virus – drawing on our 40 years’ experience and trusted network of partners all over the Americas and beyond.


The Zika Virus

  • The Zika virus is thought to be most dangerous to pregnant women. It has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.
  • The majority of cases are thought to be caused by bites from infected Aedes mosquitoes, which are most active during the day. 


  • These may include a low-grade fever; rash; joint, muscle or eye pain and a headache. They are usually mild and last two to seven days, but often they don’t appear at all.

Reducing Risk

  • Avoid bites from Aedes mosquitoes by using insect repellent containing N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) on exposed skin and wearing loose clothing to cover arms and legs.
  • DEET is safe to use during pregnancy and should be applied to skin before sunscreen.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • A blood test can diagnose the virus.
  • Drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol may offer some relief from symptoms, but there is no treatment.
  • Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, are not recommended, as they could trigger excessive bleeding.
  • Anyone displaying symptoms for more than a week should seek medical advice.


History of the Virus

The virus was isolated for the first time in 1947, in the Zika forest in Uganda. Since then, it has remained mainly in Africa, with small and sporadic outbreaks in Asia. In 2007, a major epidemic was reported on the island of Yap (Micronesia), where nearly 75% of the population was infected.

On 3 March 2014, Chile confirmed a case of indigenous transmission of the Zika virus on Easter Island, where it continued to be detected until June 2014.

In May 2015, the public health authorities of Brazil confirmed the transmission of the virus in the northeast of the country. Since October 2015, other countries and territories of the Americas have reported the presence of the virus.

Keeping Informed

You can find the very latest information about the Zika virus from the World Health Organisation and the most up-to-date Foreign Office travel advice.

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