Zika Travel Alert for Pregnant Women

Zika Travel Alert for Pregnant Women or those trying to become pregnant.  Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects:

About Zika

Many people infected with Zika virus do not get sick or only have mild symptoms. However, infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects. Because there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika, travelers should take steps to prevent getting Zika during travel. They should also take steps to prevent spreading it when they return home.

No vaccine or medicine exists to prevent Zika virus infection, the CDC says, and advises seeing a doctor or nurse if you “develop a fever with a rash, joint pain, or red eyes.”

How is Zika virus spread?

Zika can spread several ways, including:

  1. Through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on (bite) a person infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
  2. From a pregnant woman to her developing fetus, or at the time of birth, if the mother is infected with Zika during pregnancy.
  3. Through sex with a person who is infected with Zika. Zika can be sexually transmitted from an infected man or woman. But Zika can stay in a man’s semen longer than in a woman’s body fluids. Zika can stay in a man’s semen for months after infection and be transmitted through sex during that time.

What can travelers do to prevent Zika?

  • Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika. This is because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.
  • All travelers to areas with risk of Zika should (1) prevent mosquito bites and (2) use condoms or not have sex to protect against Zika during travel. They should continue to take these precautions after their trip to stop the spread of Zika to others back home. See below for more information.

Special Precautions for Specific Groups

CDC recommends special precautions for (1) pregnant women, (2) the partners of pregnant women, and (3) those considering pregnancy:

1. Pregnant women

  • Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.
  • However, if you must travel:
    • Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider before you travel.
    • Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during travel and for 3 weeks after your return.
    • Strictly follow steps to prevent sexual transmission during your trip.
    • See your doctor after your return, even if you do not have symptoms.
    • Tell your doctor about possible Zika exposure at each prenatal care visit.
  • If your partner travels:
    • Use condoms every time you have sex – or do not have sex – for the rest of the pregnancy, even if your partner does not have symptoms or feel sick.

>> More Zika information for pregnant women

2. Travelers who have a pregnant partner

  • Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during travel and for 3 weeks after your return.
  • Use condoms every time you have sex—or do not have sex— for the rest of the pregnancy, even if you do not have symptoms or feel sick.

>> More information about protecting against Zika during pregnancy

3. Travelers considering pregnancy

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your pregnancy plans and possible Zika risk before travel.
  • Strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during travel and for 3 weeks after your return.
  • If you’re a couple traveling together or a man (traveling without your partner): Consider waiting at least 6 months after you return (or from the start of symptoms, if the man develops symptoms) before trying to conceive. During that time, use condoms or do not have sex to prevent passing Zika to your partner.
  • If you’re a woman (and your male partner does not travel): Consider waiting at least 2 months after you return (or from the start of symptoms, if you develop symptoms) before trying to conceive. During that time, use condoms or do not have sex to prevent passing Zika to your partner.

Men are advised to consider waiting longer because Zika can stay in semen longer than in other body fluids and can be transmitted to partners during that time.

>> More Zika information for those considering pregnancy

During Travel: Protect Yourself

  • Prevent mosquito bites:
    • Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, 2-undecanone. Always use as directed.
    • Cover exposed skin: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
    • Stay in places with air conditioning, with window and door screens, or sleep under a mosquito bed net.
    • For extended stays there are steps you can take to control mosquitoes inside and outside, like removing standing water. [See more]
  • Prevent sexual transmission:
    • Use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex – or do not have sex – if you are concerned about getting or passing Zika through sex. This is especially important if you or your partner is pregnant or planning to become pregnant. [See more]

After Travel: Protect Others

  • Continue using mosquito repellent for 3 weeks after your return, even if you do not feel sick. This will help prevent spreading Zika to uninfected mosquitoes that can spread the virus to other people.
  • To protect your partners, use condoms – or do not have sex – for at least 6 months after travel if you are a man, and for at least 2 months after travel if you are a woman. If you and your partner travel together, use condoms for at least 6 months after your return. If your partner is pregnant, use condoms for the rest of her pregnancy.

If you feel sick and think you may have Zika

  • Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider if you develop common symptoms of Zika, including fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, or muscle pain.
  • Tell your doctor about your travel.
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain.
  • Do not take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding. Dengue is another disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes symptoms similar to Zika and can cause internal bleeding.
  • If you are taking medicine for another condition or if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking additional medication.
  • A blood or urine test can identify Zika infection. For more about testing, see CDC Testing Recommendations.

Additional Resources

For Travelers:

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