Zika Virus Travel Precautions

Zika Virus Travel Precautions
December 1, 2016

Guidance for Harvard affiliates traveling to Zika-affected regions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued level 2 travel alerts (practice enhanced precautions) for the Americas, the Caribbean, Asia, Oceania,the Pacific Islands, and Cape Verde due to the transmission of the Zika virus infection. This remains a very fluid situation, and the virus is likely to spread to other countries. We'll continue to monitor the outbreak and update our guidance in coordination with Harvard University Health Services, our affiliated hospitals, the CDC, and other medical agencies.

The CDC is warning travelers about the Zika virus, which is spread primarily by mosquito bites; photo credit: photopin

Symptoms and How Zika is Spread

The Zika virus is spread primarily by mosquito bites, although sexual transmission from a male partner is also possible. Symptoms are typically mild—lasting several days to a week—and include fever, rash, joint or muscle pain, headache, and conjunctivitis. Most people with Zika don’t know they have it. There is neither a vaccine to prevent the virus nor medicine to treat it at present.

Zika virus can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus and has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect. As there are still many unknowns, the CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant.

We encourage all travelers to consider the following precautions and stay abreast of the CDC’s guidance and list of areas with active Zika virus transmission.

Before Travel

  • Consult with your healthcare providers or visit a travel clinic, especially if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. The CDC recommends that pregnant women do not travel to Zika-affected areas.
  • Build your own Zika prevention kit.
  • Treat your clothing and gear (i.e. boots, socks, pants, hats, and tents) with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
  • Enter your travel in the Harvard Travel Registry.

During Travel

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover exposed skin.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535.
  • Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms, or use a mosquito bed net.
  • Use condoms or abstain from sexual activity.
  • If you feel sick and think you may have Zika, contact Harvard Travel Assist at +1-617-998-0000 or travelassist@harvard.edu. Case managers will advise you on your situation and work with us to connect you to appropriate medical resources.

After Travel

  • Use insect repellent for 3 weeks to prevent mosquito bites and spreading Zika to uninfected mosquitos.
  • Use condoms to protect your partner; if your partner is pregnant, use condoms or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • Watch for symptoms.
  • If you think you may have Zika, consult with your healthcare providers about your symptoms and your recent travel.

Additional Resources