The Zika Virus is an illness with generally mild symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), which can last several days to a week. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, but symptoms are rarely severe and hospitalization is uncommon.
However, Zika is linked to a specific birth defect called microcephaly. Because of this link, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed specific guidance for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, warning them to avoid visiting places where the virus is currently circulating. The CDC has also issued information about the risk of transmitting Zika through sexual contact. Note that some locations may offer a reduced chance of exposure to Zika due to high elevation.
On September 30, 2016, the CDC expanded its recommendation that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to Southeast Asia due to an increased risk of Zika exposure in this region. Prior to this announcement, concern was centered around countries in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. Specific Gudiance has also been issued for travelers to South Florida. The CDC’s Zika Destinations page is the most up-to-date resources for travelers.
Zika is spread by mosquitos and therefore most prevalent in tropical environments. Travelers can limit their exposure to Zika (and other mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya) by taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
If you are concerned about a risk of exposure to Zika related to upcoming travel, contact a specialist in travel medicine, such as Northwestern Medicine’s Travel Medicine Clinic or Glenbrook Hospital’s Travel Clinic. Pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, should consult with their OB/GYN.
Last revised: 9/30/2016