Business travel

Zika Virus

Advice for University staff or students who intend to travel to, or have recently returned from, an area which is affected by the Zika virus.

Zika Virus – Key Facts

  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by the Aedes mosquito.
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have symptoms that can include mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • For travellers to affected countries there is a low risk of infection which may result in mild symptoms in the majority of cases.
  • For pregnant travellers or for women who may become pregnant during or soon after travel the risk is considered higher due to the possible association of ZIKV infection and microcephaly in babies.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.


  • Although symptoms associated with Zika are generally mild, a possible association has been observed between the unusual rise of Zika cases and microcephaly cases in Brazil since 2015.
  • Microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth.  Babies with microcephaly can have developmental disabilities.
  • Women - It is recommended that pregnant women should postpone non-essential travel to areas with active Zika transmission until after pregnancy. This is a change to the previous advice which encouraged pregnant women to consider avoiding travel and seek travel health advice.
  • Pregnant women travelling to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission should check with their travel insurance companies that they are eligible for cover under the terms of the policy.
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant who are travelling in areas active with the Zika virus should take extra care to protect themselves from the bites of the mosquito that transmits Zika.
  • Men - There have been a small number of reports where Zika virus appears to have been transmitted sexually.  Zika virus has also been found in semen two months after illness, it is not known how long it may persist in semen, or if this occurs in all infected men.
  • Male and non-pregnant female travellers should practice abstinence or use contraception, including condoms during travel and for 8 weeks on return to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of ZIKV, particularly during conception or pregnancy.

Risk Assessment

  • As with all University related travel, an essential part of preparation for foreign travel, or a field trip, is carrying out a risk assessment.   Your risk assessment should cover health risks from the area(s) you intend to travel to, including the Zika virus. 
  • This risk assessment must be undertaken well in advance of your travel and it must be countersigned by your Head of School or Support Unit.  
  • Consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate that you travel to affected areas at this time.
  • A template Travel Risk Assessment is available to assist with this. 

Health Advice

  • If you intend to travel to an area affected by the Zika virus as part of University related activities, you should contact the University’s Occupational Health Service (OHS) for specific and confidential travel related health advice.

                              University Occupational Health Service

                              Tel: +44(0)131 650 8190


  • You should also consider seeking advice from your own G.P.

Further guidance and advice

The pace of the evolving outbreak of the Zika virus in the Americas and Pacific (2015/16) means that information and advice on this issue is being updated regularly.  For the latest information please refer to the Health Protection Scotland website, and/or medical professionals (OHU or G.P. services).

Updated 03/03/2016