International travel and health

Travel health advice on Zika virus


Updated 10 March 2017

1. Overview

Zika virus and its complications such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome represent a new type of public health threat with long-term consequences for families, communities and countries.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of congenital brain abnormalities, including microcephaly, and a trigger of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

This website will be regularly updated with advice to national authorities and health care practitioners on travel health issues related to Zika virus.

2. National authorities

In the context of Zika virus, countries are advised that:

  • There should be no general restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission.
  • Standard WHO recommendations regarding vector control at airports should be implemented in keeping with the IHR (2005). Countries should consider disinsection of aircraft.
  • With regard to surveillance, health workers and the health sector should be on alert specifically for Zika virus disease in travellers returning from affected countries, recognizing that the risk of infection may vary significantly even within affected countries and regions. It is important that travellers and health care practitioners are informed on a range of issues before, during and after travel to areas with Zika virus transmission (table 1).

Health authorities should:

  • Provide up-to-date advice to travellers on how to reduce the risk of becoming infected, including preventing mosquito bites and practicing safer sex.
  • Advise travellers from Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 21in table 1 to practice safer sex or abstinence for at least 6 months and not to donate blood for at least 1 month after return to reduce the potential risk of onwards transmission.
  • Advise pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 in table 1.
  • Advise pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 to ensure safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy.
  • Alert health care practitioners to the possibility of Zika virus infection in symptomatic travellers with a recent history of travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 in table 1 and areas at risk of transmission (see categories 3 and 4 in table 1).
  • Provide health care practitioners with clear guidance on how to refer travellers with suspected Zika virus infection to appropriate management and testing.

3. Health care practitioners

Health care practitioners advising travellers should:

  • Provide travellers with up-to-date advice on how to reduce the risk of becoming infected, including preventing mosquito bites and practicing safer sex.
  • Advise travellers to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 to practice safer sex or consider abstinence for at least 6 months and not to donate blood for at least 1 month after return to reduce the potential risk of onwards transmission.
  • Advise pregnant women not to travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2.
  • Advise pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 to ensure safer sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy.

Health care practitioners treating patients who have returned from Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2 should:

  • Consider Zika virus infection in patients with acute fever, rash, arthralgia, or conjunctivitis, who have travelled to countries affected by Zika virus in the 2 weeks prior to onset of illness.
  • If Zika virus disease is suspected, send appropriate samples for testing (together with a full travel and clinical history with relevant dates) as early as possible to the relevant reference laboratory.
  • Report suspected cases of Zika virus disease to the relevant state or local health authorities.
  • Be alert for any increase in neurological syndromes, autoimmune syndromes or congenital malformations in neonates born to parents with a history of travel to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2.
  • Assess and monitor pregnant women who have travelled to Zika-affected areas in categories 1 and 2.
  • Evaluate foetuses and infants of women infected with Zika virus during pregnancy for possible neurological syndromes or congenital malformations.

1 Category 1: Area with new introduction of Zika virus since 2015 or area where the virus has been re-introduced, with ongoing transmission. Category 2: Area either with evidence of Zika virus circulation before 2015 OR with ongoing transmission but the area does not satisfy the criteria for category 1 or 3. Areas in category 2 may also experience an outbreak of Zika. Category 3: Area with interrupted transmission but with potential for future transmission. Category 4: Area with established Aedes aegypti mosquitoes but no known documented past or current transmission.

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Publications and technical guidance

This page links all WHO information to its response on the Public Health Emergency of International Concern.