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

Brand Conditions Apply
1-cover-new1 To 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
AIG No mention
AMEX Travel Insurance No mention More 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 Insurance No mention
Columbus Direct
    There is no cover for trip cancellation to avoid Zika, unless the Australian government issues a regulation that prevents you from travelling. You will not be covered if you abandon your trip or move locations as result of a Zika outbreak unless you are forced to do so, e.g. by government decree.
More info
CoverMore No mention More info
Fast Cover Fast 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
InsureandGo InsureandGo 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
iTrek Itrek 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 Insurance Multitrip.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
worldcare travel insurance logo Worldcare 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
youGo No mention More info
Easy Travel Insurance No mention More info

Note: Information is correct as of January 2016

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 body Warning More information
Australia Smartraveller 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
Canada It 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 Union The 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 Kingdom Pregnant 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 Organisation Travellers 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 Insurance Editor at finder, and has been wrangling insurance Product Disclosure Statements for the last 4 years. When he’s not helping Aussies make sense of the fine print, he can be found testing the quality of Aperol Spritzes in his new found home of New York. Richard studied Journalism at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism, and has a Tier 1 certification in General Advice for Life Insurance. He has also been published in CSO Australia and Dynamic Business.

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