Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease (Zika) are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Venezuela.
This alert follows reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. However, additional studies are needed to further characterize this relationship. More studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
Until more is known, and out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:
- Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
- Women trying to become pregnant who are thinking about becoming pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
Like chikungunya and dengue, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Travelers can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites. When traveling to countries where Zika virus (see map) or other viruses spread by mosquitoes have been reported, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.
When used as directed, insect repellents are the BEST way to protect yourself and family members from getting sick from mosquito bites.
How do I protect myself from mosquito bites?
- Wear insect repellent: Yes! It is safe. When used as directed, insect repellent is the BEST way to protect yourself from mosquito bites—even children and pregnant women should protect themselves. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer lasting protection.
- DEET: Products containing DEET include Cutter, OFF!, Skintastic.
- Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin): Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Autan outside the United States).
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD: Repel contains OLE.
- IR3535: Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart.
- Cover up: When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Keep mosquitoes outside: Use air conditioning or make sure that you repair and use window/door screens.
Planning a trip? Do your homework before traveling.
Make a check list of everything you’ll need for an enjoyable vacation and use the following resources to help you prepare.
- Pack a travel health kit. Remember insect repellent and use it to prevent mosquito bites.
- Learn about destination-specific health risks and recommendations by visiting CDC Travelers’ Health website.
- See a healthcare provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally four to six weeks before your trip. Go to the Find a Clinic webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
Whether you and your family are staying at home or heading overseas, remember to wear your insect repellent.
Tips on preventing mosquito bites when traveling
Mosquito bites are bothersome enough, but when you consider risks such as chikungunya, dengue, and Zika viruses, it’s important that you choose products that work well and that you feel comfortable regularly using.
- Protect yourself when traveling: Learn about country-specific travel advice, health risks, and how to stay safe by visiting CDC Travelers’ Health website.
- Wear an insect repellent registered by the Environmental Protection Agency: Use insect repellent or wear protective clothing wherever mosquitoes are found. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long-lasting protection. Learn more about how you can avoid bug bites.
- Keep mosquitoes outside. Use air conditioning or make sure that there are window/door screens where you stay. If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
Visit your healthcare provider right away if you develop a fever, headache, rash, muscle or joint pain.
- Tell your doctor about your recent international travel.
- Visit the Getting Sick after Travel webpage for more information.