Zika Disease Icon Zika

Question Mark Disease Icon What is it and how is it spread?

Zika virus is a viral infection that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It usually leads to very mild symptoms, but in rare cases may cause birth defects and problems with the central nervous system. The virus is found in parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, and has recently been reported in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.1,2

Who is at risk from Zika icon Who is at risk?

All travellers to areas where Zika virus is known to occur are at risk of infection, should ideally seek travel health advice from their GP, practice nurse or a travel clinic at least 6–8 weeks before travel.1 This is particularly important for those who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, suffer from a severe, chronic medical condition, or have a medical condition that weakens the immune system. Pregnant women are advised to postpone travel to areas where there is a high risk of catching the virus until after pregnancy. There are also rare cases of the disease being passed on through sexual contact.1,2

What are the symptoms of Zika? What are the symptoms?

Most people infected by Zika virus have no symptoms or very mild symptoms that usually start around 3–14 days after the mosquito bite and last for about 2–7 days.1 These include a rash, itching, a mild fever, headache, red and sore eyes, muscle and joint pains and swollen joints. Less common symptoms include loss of appetite, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pain and dizziness.1,2

Serious complications are not common, though it is now believed that Zika virus can cause birth defects such as microcephaly (a small head) and in rare cases a disorder of the nervous system called Guillain-Barré syndrome.2

How can Zika be prevented Icon How can it be prevented?

There is no vaccine for Zika virus, so the best way to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito bites.1,2 The mosquito that carries the Zika virus is most active in daylight hours, but it is also a persistent biter, so travellers should take special care to avoid insect bites throughout the day and night. Ways to do this include wearing loose-fitting clothing covering as much of the body as possible, regularly applying insect repellents to clothing and bare skin, and using mosquito nets and air conditioning at night. This is especially important for pregnant women.1,2

How can Zika be treated Icon How can it be treated?

There is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection as most people get better without any treatment.1,2 Rest, fluids and pain relief medications are recommended to help relieve symptoms.2

Further Information Icon Where can I get further information?

Travellers should seek advice from a healthcare provider at least 4–6 weeks ahead of travel, especially if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, suffering from a severe long-term illness or have a condition that weakens the immune system.2

The information provided is a summary that was up to date when this article was published; however, recommendations may be updated from time to time. Please always consult with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist well in advance of travelling.


1. Fit for Travel Zika. Available at: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/disease-prevention-advice/zika-virus-infection.aspx. Accessed: February 2024. 2. Travel Health Pro Zika. Available at: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/disease/196/zika-virus. Accessed: February 2024.

MAT-XU-2203073(v2.0) | February 2024

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