Zika virus graphic artwork

The Zika virus and travel insurance: what you need to know

Will your travel insurance cover you if the Zika virus strikes? Here's what you need to know.

28 January 2016: The Zika virus is currently plaguing various Central and South American countries, and at least one Pacific Island (Samoa). As the virus continues its rapid spread, countries around the world have started to issue travel advisories for the affected nations.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus, which has been causally linked to the birth defect microcephaly. Microcephaly is the technical term for babies that are born with abnormally small heads.

The Zika virus was contained to the African continent until outbreaks were reported on the island nation of Yap (2007) and French Polynesia (2013). In 2015, Brazil attracted global media coverage as a spate of babies were born with microcephaly.

If you're planning a trip to an affected area, it's important that you check if your travel insurance will cover you. We've rounded up the current policies for major Australian brands. The bottom line? Many policies won't cover pandemics, especially when travel warnings have been issued.

Do any travel insurance brands cover the Zika Virus? Claims for pandemics and epidemics

BrandConditionsApply
1-cover-new1To the extent permissible by law, 1Cover will not pay if:

  • Your claim arises from, is related to or associated with and actual or likely epidemic or pandemic or the threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
AIGNo mentionMore info
AMEX Travel InsuranceNo mentionMore info
Budget Direct Travel Insurance
  • Under section A, cancellation and amendment fees, if you have to cancel your trip because you cannot travel because of government restrictions after an epidemic, Budget Direct will pay up to the amount shown in the table of benefits.
More info
Citibank Travel InsuranceNo mentionMore info
Columbus Direct
  • Under section 14, catastrophe, you are covered for irrecoverable travel and accommodation expenses you incur (up to the max benefit) should you be forced to move from your pre‐booked accommodation to continue your trip or to return home (if the trip cannot be continued) as a result of medical epidemic.
More info
CoverMoreNo mentionMore info
DownunderDUInsure will not pay for any claim or loss under any circumstances if your claim arises from or is related to or is associated with:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Easy Travel InsuranceNo mentionMore info
Fast CoverFast Cover will not pay for any claim or loss under any circumstances if your claim arises from or is related to or is associated with:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Go Insurance
  • Under section one (1), cancellation and curtailment, if in the event your trip is cancelled prior to commencement or curtailed prior to completion because a medical epidemic prevents you from travelling as planned, you are covered up to the amount shown in the schedule of benefits.
More info
InsureandGoInsureandGo will pay a benefit under section A, cancelling your trip before departure, if the cancellation of your trip is necessary and unavoidable as a result of:

  • You being unable to travel because of government restrictions after an epidemic
More info
iTrekItrek will not pay under any circumstances if:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
MultiTrip Travel InsuranceMultitrip.com.au will pay a benefit under this Section if the cancellation of your trip is necessary and unavoidable as a result of:

  • You cannot travel because of government restrictions after an epidemic
More info
No Worries Travel InsuranceUnder section two (2), changes to your trip, you are covered up to the max benefit stated in the schedule of insurance if:

  • Your trip is necessarily and unavoidably cancelled prior to its commencement or cut short before completion as a result of a regulation from the government of your country of residence following an epidemic or natural disaster
More info
Simply Travel InsuranceSimply Travel Insurance will not pay under any circumstances if:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Skiinsurance.com.auSkiinsurance.com.au will not pay under any circumstances if:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Southern CrossSCTI will not pay for any claims arising directly or indirectly from:

  • A pandemic illness, or the threat or perceived threat of any such pandemic illness.
STA Travel InsuranceSTA Travel Insurance will not pay under any circumstances if:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Tick Travel InsuranceTick Travel Insurance will pay a benefit under section A, cancelling your trip before departure, if the cancellation of your trip is necessary and unavoidable as a result of:

  • You being unable to travel because of government restrictions after an epidemic
More info
Travel Insurance DirectTID will not pay for any claim arising from or relating to:

  • A likely or actual epidemic or pandemic
  • Threat of an epidemic or pandemic that requires the closure of a country’s borders
  • An epidemic or pandemic that results in you being quarantined
More info
Travel Insurance Saver LogoNo mentionMore info
Travel InsuranzTravel insurance provides cover under section one (1), cancellation fees, lost deposits and curtailment, you're covered up to the maximum benefit in the event your trip is necessarily and unavoidably cancelled prior to departure or curtailed before completion because:

  • A Government regulation following an epidemic or natural disaster that stops you from travelling

Travel Insurance also provides cover under section 12, catastrophe cover, you're covered up to the maximum benefit reasonable additional travel and accommodation expenses incurred if:

  • Local medical epidemic or directive from the responsible Government or local authority directly affecting the area where your pre-booked accommodation is located
More info
Virgin MoneyTo the extent permitted by law Virgin Travel Insurance will not pay if your claim arises from, is related to or associated with:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Woolworths Travel InsuranceWoolworths Travel Insurance will not pay under any circumstances if:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
Worldcare Travel InsuranceWorldcare Travel Insurance will not pay under any circumstances if:

  • An actual or likely epidemic or pandemic
  • The threat of an epidemic or pandemic
More info
youGoNo mentionMore info

Key facts

  • Cause. A virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • Symptoms. Mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis.
  • Duration. Symptoms generally dissipate between two to seven days.
  • Treatment. There is currently no specific treatment.
  • Vaccination. There is currently no vaccine.
  • Prevention. Avoid affected areas. If you must travel, wear protective clothing that protects against mosquito bites.
  • Affected areas. The virus is present in Africa, central and South America, Asia and the Pacific.

Advisories from various nations and health organisations

As Zika continues to spread, various government agencies and health organisations have begun to issue warnings:

Country/Health bodyWarningMore information
AustraliaSmartraveller advises travellers, particularly pregnant women, to be aware of the areas of ongoing transmission. All travellers are strongly urged to protect themselves by taking measures to prevent mosquito bites. Those who are pregnant or are attempting to get pregnant should consider postponing their travel.More info
CanadaIt is recommended that those considering getting pregnant or pregnant women discuss their travel plans with a doctor and consider postponing their travel.More info
European UnionThe European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommends that pregnant women or those planning on having children, speak with a doctor before they depart and consider postponing their trip.More info
United KingdomPregnant women are advised to reconsider travel to areas where Zika virus is present.More info
United States of America (CDC)Women who are pregnant should consider postponing travel.More info
World Health OrganisationTravellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.More info

Where do I need to be on alert for Zika?

Countries that have reported cases of the ZIka virus are:

  • American Samoa 
  • Anguilla 
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina (Tucumán Province) 
  • Aruba 
  • Barbados 
  • Belize 
  • Bolivia 
  • Bonaire (Netherlands Territory) 
  • Brazil 
  • Cape Verde 
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica 
  • Cuba 
  • Curaçao 
  • Dominica (Commonwealth of) 
  • Dominican Republic 
  • Ecuador 
  • El Salvador 
  • Fiji 
  • French Guiana 
  • Grenada 
  • Guadeloupe 
  • Guatemala 
  • Guinea Bissau 
  • Guyana 
  • Haiti 
  • Honduras 
  • Indonesia 
  • Jamaica 
  • Kosrae (Federated States of Micronesia) 
  • Martinique 
  • Mexico 
  • Nicaragua 
  • Panama 
  • Paraguay 
  • Peru 
  • Puerto Rico 
  • Saint Barthélemy 
  • Saint Martin 
  • Sint Maarten (Netherlands Territory) 
  • St Lucia 
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines 
  • Suriname 
  • Trinidad and Tobago 
  • Turks and Caicos 
  • United States of America - Florida 
  • US Virgin Islands 
  • Venezuela 
  • Vietnam

Source: The Department of Health

Countries affected by the Zika virus

How can I prevent being affected by the Zika virus?

Was to avoid being affected by the Zika virus include:

  • Only sleeping in rooms with air conditioning and fly screens on the window
  • Use insect repellent
  • Wear long clothing (shirts and pants), and avoid exposed skin
  • Sleeping under a bed net
  • Avoid travel to affected areas

Where did the Zika virus come from?

The Zika virus first appeared in rhesus monkeys in Uganda in 1947 and it wasn't until 1952 that the Zika virus was reported in humans in both Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Since this time outbreaks of Zika have been identified in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and in the Pacific

How do I know if I have Zika?

While there is not a lot known about the Zika virus, its symptoms include:

  • Conjunctivitis and itchy eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Joint pain
  • Mild fever
  • Muscular pain
  • Rash
  • Swelling in the hands and feet

What should I do if I feel sick?

If you've travelled to an affected area and think you may have contracted the Zika virus you should:

  • Contact your doctor immediately
  • Avoid any further mosquito bites
  • Keep up your fluid intake
  • If you are exhibiting symptoms such as fever or headaches, you should take paracetamol
  • Avoid medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen

Compare how travel insurance brands treat epidemics and pandemics

Picture: Shutterstock

Richard Laycock

Richard is the senior insurance writer at finder.com.au and is on a mission to make insurance easier to understand.

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