Does The Zika Virus Affect My Travel Plans?

We get a lot of questions from passengers about the Zika virus. “How can I prevent infection while traveling?”. “Does it affect my travel plans?”. KLM Health Services is following the situation closely and presents some information here, based on international reliable sources. But first, let me explain what this mosquito-born virus is.

The Zika virus, abbreviated to ZIKV, is from the same family of viruses as the Dengue virus. ZIKV was first identified in 1947 in certain monkeys in the Zika Forest in Uganda, hence its name. In 1962 it was proven that ZIKV can also cause illness in humans. There are indications that ZIKV may have a relation with certain neurological birth defects (Microcephaly), when the mother becomes infected with Zika during pregnancy. The scientific evidence for this relation is still incomplete and on the total number of Zikavirus infections his complication is rare.

Even more rare, and also still lacking scientific evidence, is the supposed link between Zikavirus infection and some neurological conditions (Guillain-Barré syndrome).

Where is ZIKV occurring at the moment?

The Zika virus is currently found in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. The situation is changing all the time and the WHO (World Health Organization) expects the epidemic to spread to other areas.

If you would like up-to-date information about where ZIKV is currently being found, follow this link: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/zika_virus_infection/

How do you become infected with the Zika virus?

The Zika virus is transmitted through bites from the Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that carries Dengue and Chikungunya. These mosquitos are usually active during daylight hours and often live in buildings in urban areas. It is also possible, though much more rare, for a foetus to contract the virus in the womb if the mother has become infected with Zika during the pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?

A Zika virus infection is generally mild. It is estimated that 75% of people who become infected with ZIKV experience no symptoms (i.e. a high rate of asymptomatic infection). Symptoms, if they occur, are one or more of the following:

  • Sudden onset with fever.
  • Muscle and joint pain (often in hands and feet).
  • Skin rash (often starting in the face and spreading).
  • Conjuctivitis.
  • Headache (especially “behind the eyes”).
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and/or diarrhoea.
  • People infected with the Zika virus generally recover without treatment and without any serious lingering symptoms. The number of people who have died of the Zika virus is very low.

The incubation time for ZIKV has not been clearly established, but is probably between three and 12 days.

Is there a treatment for the Zika virus?

No, there are no medicines available specifically to treat the Zika virus. They are also unnecessary, because people recover spontaneously from the virus. Only in the event of (possible) complications might it be necessary to carry out a targeted investigation to provide specific treatment.

There is up untill now no vaccine for ZIKV available.

Can I become reinfected if I have already had ZIKV?

As far as known anyone knows, a Zika virus infection leads to lifelong immunity. In other words, once you have had the Zika virus, it is very unlikely you will catch it again.

Can I still get pregnant if I have had the Zika virus?

As far as is known, you can. If you should become infected with the Zikavirus, the virus will be cleared from your body within a period of three weeks. And if cleared from the virus, there is no risk anymore for the unborn child. However, in case of doubt or questions: always consult your doctor.

Is there an infection risk in the Netherlands?

The Zika virus has been confirmed in a number of patients in the Netherlands. But all were infected in countries with Zikavirus. The Netherlands is free from Zika, and it is highly unlikely that anyone will contract the virus in the Netherlands from mosquitos entering the country by plane or in cargo arriving from a Zika-infected area.

Does the virus affect my travel plans?

If – and in what way – the current Zika virus outbreak may affect your travel plans depends on your health condition and on travel advise by (inter)national organizations and governments. In general, there is no restriction on travel to Zikavirus areas. When in good health and not pregnant, there is no obvious medical reason for changing your travel plans, as long as you comply with the recommended preventive measures.

However, if you are pregnant or might become pregnant while visiting Zikavirus areas, you might take into account the travel advise of WHO and your own government. Knowledge of the Zikavirus and its characteristics is growing rapidly, and as a result preventive advise will change with it. Therefore, if pregnant, please follow reliable sources (such as WHO and your government) and consult your doctor well before visiting Zikavirus areas.

How can I protect myself against the Zika virus?

Protection against a Zika virus infection comes down to preventing mosquito bites. Here are the general guidelines:

  • Take good anti-mosquito precautions, especially during the day.
  • Wear long clothes (preferably light-coloured) as much as possible (long sleeves, long trousers, socks and closed shoes).
  • Use a reliable repellent (anti-mosquito lotion or stick): carefully follow the instructions on the product leaflet.
  • Hotel room: Keep your hotel room mosquito free (keep windows closed, only open them if there are good screens, use air conditioning to keep the room cool.).
  • Mosquito nets: if it is not possible to sleep in a room that is free of mosquitos, take an impregnated mosquito net with you (i.e. one treated with an insect repellent, such as permethrin).
  • If you become ill with a fever within two weeks of returning from a Zika-infected area, always consult a doctor.

Pregnant?

For women who are pregnant or possibly pregnant, the following general advice applies for destinations where the Zika virus occurs:

  • If you are (possibly) pregnant, consider whether your journey to the Zika-infected area is necessary and perhaps postpone your trip.
  • Carefully follow all the preventative measures given above.
  • Repellents: carefully check the product leaflet for recommendations on use during pregnancy and if in doubt: consult your doctor.
  • Pregnant or possibly pregnant women should always consult a doctor if they become ill with a fever within two weeks of visiting a ZIKV-infected destination.

Specific recommendations for pregnant women may differ between countries, so please check the recommendations issued by your own national public health authority.

Posted by:   Eline van der Haar  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

chris Reed

Excellent blog, lots of very useful info as my wife & I are heading to the carribean in a few months time.

Eline van der Haar

Thanks Chris! I hope you and your wife will enjoy your beautiful trip. Take care!

kees Oversier

There is also a case that it has been transferred through sexual contact. The virus was found in seenen and urine.

Eline van der Haar

Hi Kees,

You seemed to be very informed about the virus. Good to read. I didn’t know this fact, but thanks for sharing.

Kind regards, Eline

Mr. Leshem Natan

I could not believe the question: “Can the virus effect my travel plans?”
What do you want from KLM ? The only thing KLM can give you is
information. If you think you are pregnant – go to your doctor or local
hospital and be checked. KLM should not be responsible for your health –
only for your travel so be responsible for yourself and don’t try and find
others to be responsible for your fears.

Eline van der Haar

Hi Leshem Natan,

Thanks for your concerns. A doctor is always the right person to go to when it comes to health issues. That’s very true. However, if you fly with KLM, we will always make sure you travel safely. Can we welcome you on board again soon?

Kind regards, Eline

Pete

Be careful people, this is more serious than you think. I got bite by a mosquito and got Chikungunya, that was 2 years ago and I still have pain in my feet, it has been a nightmare. I’m depressed cuz I can’t run, play football or walk properly. And there is no medicine for it. :(

Eline van der Haar

Hi Pete,

How unfortunate to read this. Wouldn’t a trip to the sun make you feel a bit better? If so, we hope to welcome you on board again soon!

Kind regards, Eline

Zeca Moraes

Very fine article. May I translate it to brazilian portuguese to post it on Facebook?

Eline van der Haar

Hi Zeca,

Thank you very much. I hope it provides all the information you need to know about the virus. You’re allowed to translate it if that would help you.

Kind regards, Eline

Zeca Moraes

Thanks, Eline, I’ll send you the link through FB.

Zeca Moraes

Dear Eline,

Although I have not yet traslated your article, an important new about the allegedly microcephaly caused by Zika virus appears in the internet: argentinian scientists say it is not the ZIKV that causes microcephaly, but the chemical component Pyriproxyfen, used to combat the Aedes aegypti, that causes it. The link (in brazilian portuguese, sorry) is this:

Kind regards,

Zeca Moraes

KB

How come you advise women not to travel to Zika infected areas And people who want to postloket or change travel plans are not helped by you as KLM? My sister in law already hooked a trip to Costa Rica before the breakout and you as KLM do not show any compassion and thus refund of their ticket? As a frequent flyer with KLM I’m Very disappointed by this lack of customer service!

Eline van der Haar

Hi KB,

How unfortunate to hear. When did this occure? We always try to help out our passengers on every detail we can. Have you contacted our customer help desk? Let me know if there is anything I could do for you, because we would love to welcome you on board again soon.

Kind regards, Eline

Koen Bouts

graag persoonlijk in contact te treden via mijn e-mailadres om te zien of er nog iets te regelen is. Zij krijgen een reis naar Lissabon aangeboden maar moeten dan nog 220€ bijbetalen tov een ticket dat ze hadden naar Costa Rica. Dat is geen vervanging maar gewoon een nieuw ticket kopen en je geld kwijt zijn.

Eline van der Haar

Hi Koen,

Zou je een privé bericht kunnen sturen naar KLM via Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn? Op die manier kunnen de persoonlijke gegevens veilig doorgenomen worden en kunnen we tot een oplossing komen.

Groetjes, Eline

Andres campos lira

Could you please be more specific about the areas affected? This mosquito doesnt existe in Chile and the posibillity to get Zika in Chile is really low. Please KLM do not generalize as most of the people do with South America, remember that it is a big Continent and there are totally different countries in it.
Please inform yourself

Sidnéa Miranda

Well explained, good job KLM. People should know about it!
I’m from Brazil and the situation here is really worrying!

Eline van der Haar

Hi Sidnéa,

Thanks for the compliment. Good to hear! Hope you and all your relatives are okay. Take good care of yourself!

Kind regards, Eline

Marcelo Sacco

Just forgot to mention tha Zica Virus can also be transmitted through sex.

Fernanda Ramos

Very nice article, information is the most important thing! I’m Brazilian and I never had any disease from the mosquitos, but I take a lot of care: use repellent regularly, also use air conditioner at home most of the time, the mosquitos don’t like the cold. Anyway I know people that had this diseases and they are all ok, it’s like a heavy cold but usually don’t have more consequences (for non pregnant women).

Eline van der Haar

Hi Fernanda,

Those are really helpfull tips you’ve just given us. Thank you! It’s always necessary to take good care of yourself. As KLM we also like to help out our passengers as good as we can.

Thanks for your comment. Eline

lita

Mijn vraag is
Wat doet de KLM voor haar passagiers die al een reis hebben geboekt naar zika virus landen
Kan de reis worden omgeboekt worden of uitgesteld worden voor kwetsbare mensen

Eline van der Haar

Hi Lita,

KLM heeft besloten om Zika-gerelateerde veranderingen van persoon tot persoon te bekijken.

Groetjes, Eline

lita

Hoe dan van persoon tot persoon wordt het bekeken

Als ik een van de reactie lees dan ben je gewoon je ticket geld kwijt

Je vliegt of vliegt niet
Ondanks de zorg besmet te worden met de zikavirus ( geprikt te worden)

Luciana Barbosa

Dear Eline,
First of all, it’s a very good article.
I have recently read that major airlines are offering pregnant customers travelling to the affected areas a full refund or opportunity to rebook to a later date without any fee, depending on the airline. Examples are United Airlines, American Airlines, LAN Airlines and TAM airlines.
Is KLM also offering this opportunity to pregnant women?

Best wishes, Luciana

Leo

Another small tip if you’re going to a zika area. Try to stay in a high floor in your hotel. I for example live on the 8th floor of a building in Rio de Janeiro, right next to the forest. Even with all windows open it’s very rare to have a mosquito, they just don’t fly that high.

Char

I am pregnant and die to fly to Aruba in the Caribbean with klm. Will klm offer me a refund ?

Eline van der Haar

Hi Char,

Could you contact our customer service help desk by sending a private message to KLM on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn? They can definitely answer your questions about refunds.

Kind regards, Eline

Lolita M. Balboa

Very nice blog. Very informative. Thanks very much.

Eline van der Haar

Hi Lolita,

Thank you very much! I hope it informed you enough.

Kind regards, Eline

Levente Sandor

I have purhased flight tickets from KLM Romania with destination Rio de Janiero in period March 12-21. I have contacted the customer service for a refund or the possibility to chage the destination. They would offer me an alternative only in the case of an already preagnant girlfriend and based on medical records . I do not see it correct as it is about our and the public health. A serious thing , not that we have just changed our mind and we do not whant to travel anymore. I understand the general conditions of a non refundable purchase but the current situation is a special one. Do you see any possibility to solve this situation in a positive manner? Several airlines are offering now the exceptional possibility to change the tickets without medical records etc…

Eline van der Haar

Hi Levente,

Could you send our customer service a private message on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn? They will help you the best they can. Let me know if I could do anything else for you.

Kind regards, Eline

Bearded Clam

People wake up. She is with the airline and all they care about is the profits that could be lost Check the center for disease control. It can be transferred by mosquitoes, bodily fluids, blood transfusion and intercourse. I’m not saying you should be paranoid and cancel your travel plans but I also don’t think you should ask a travel agent if it’s safe

Line

If someone is sick with zika, dengue or another mosquito disease and still recovering, is it still possible for this person to travel?

Anuk

I give my feedback here as is related to this subject….I must say bravoooo!!!Bravo KLM!!
We had booked a trip to Cuba and meanwhile due to the fact I found out that I was waiting a baby , to avoid any risk related to zika, we decided to postpone the trip.

Calling KLM customer care this was very easy to solve!
I was impressed by the attitude and responses I had!Very nice persons each time I called to see the status of my request…

Before calling to KLM I called Air-France….Total dissapoinment (as on the ticket was written a French number)….A lady which was not in the mood to do a minimum of effort to check if there is policy for cancellations….She puts me on hold …And after few minutes of course the answer was:we can’t do anything!
Is not the same group? Shouldn’t be applied the same policy?

Pierre

Hello Anuk, your story is quite interesting. I’m exactly in the opposite situation. I mean I booked my tickets on KLM website, part of the flights are provided by Air France and KLM. When I want to the Air France des they said that there is some options to refund or postponed my flight (to Cuba). But my ticket was from KLM, so Air France can do anything. I decide to contact KLM and there is no refund option, we only can postponed our flight, from the Birth to 4months after. I didn’t agree with this possibility, so I decide to contact client service directly on the KLM website, and the reply was from Air France and they ask me to contact the Air France réservation service.

I don’t really understand how the Air France KLM works….. Never again for us.

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