With the Rio Olympics just around the corner and reports of the Zika Virus spreading to Europe and more recently Indonesia, there is renewed panic and uncertainty regarding travel to affected destinations.
The most recent facts
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not issued general restriction on travel or trade within countries, areas and territories with Zika virus transmission it is advising pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. This advice is based on the increased risk of microcephaly and other congenital malformations in babies born to pregnant women infected with Zika virus. The Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The virus can also be transmitted through sex.
Before travelling to Zika affected areas
Travellers to areas with Zika virus outbreaks should seek up-to-date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.
Reliable sources include:
While in Zika-affected areas
Men and women should practice safer sex (including the consistent use of condoms) or abstinence to prevent Zika virus infection for at least eight weeks after returning from a trip. If men experience symptoms (rash, fever, arthralgia, myalgia or conjunctivitis) then they should adopt safer sexual practices or consider abstaining for at least six months. Sexual partners of pregnant women should practice safer sex or abstain for at least the duration of the pregnancy.
Prevent mosquito bites during the trip by following these measures:
- Wear clothing – preferably light coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible;
- Use insect repellent: repellents may be applied to exposed skin or to clothing, and should contain DEET, (diethyltoluamide) or IR 3535 or Icaridin. Repellents must be used in strict accordance with the label instructions;
- Use physical barriers such as regular or mesh screens or insecticide treated netting materials on doors and windows, or closing doors and windows; and
- Sleep under mosquito nets, especially during the day, when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.
- Upon return home
Unfortunately pregnancy and fear of travelling are excluded from coverage on many travel insurance policies. This means travellers are not covered if they decide to cancel their trip for pregnancy-related reasons or fear of contracting the Zika virus.
The alternative is to check with your insurance provider if they offer a ’Cancellation for Any Reason’ benefit. In the event of the individual needing to cancel their international journey the benefit will allow the individual to be reimbursed up to the limit of liability as shown on the schedule of benefits and subject to the terms and conditions as set out by the insurance provider. Travellers can, however, in most cases opt to increase their travel insurance benefits at an additional price.
For complete piece of mind, insurance providers are urging travellers to review their insurance policy terms and conditions and to discuss any concerns directly with the relevant provider who will be able to advise on the best possible options available.