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Health advice for people travelling to a Zika affected area

Top tips for people going to the Rio Olympics from Chief Medical Officer Professor, Dame Sally Davies.

Zika virus

Zika is an illness transmitted by mosquitoes. The majority of people (80%) infected with Zika virus will not experience any symptoms - for those who do, the symptoms are mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue.

Zika poses a greater risk if you are pregnant or planning to have a baby and can have very serious consequences for the unborn child, potentially resulting in deformities and stunted growth of the head.

With a month to go before the Rio Olympic Games start, Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies sets out the official health advice regarding the Zika virus.

Top tips


Apply insect repellent during the day - you can take liquids of up to 100ml with you into the Olympic venues, the same size you can take through airport security, and you should also apply sunscreen before repellent. Choose an insect repellent high in either DEET (with up to 50% DEET content if you are pregnant), Picaridin or PMD concentration (all active ingredients in insect repellent) and pack enough to last your entire trip – your chosen brand may not be available in Brazil. For more detailed advice, see PHE’s guidance on mosquito bite avoidance.


Wear loose fitting long sleeved tops and trousers. Zika-carrying mosquitoes bite during the daytime, so it helps to wear loose fitting clothing during the day as well as insect repellent.


To avoid the small risk of sexual transmission of the Zika virus and prevent potential complications of infection during pregnancy, couples should use condoms while at the Olympics and for 8 weeks after you get back. If you or your partner are planning on becoming pregnant, there is further advice on condom use on the Public Health England website.


If you experience Zika symptoms in Brazil, seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity. The typical symptoms of Zika virus usually last 2-7 days and include mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for Zika virus and if you feel unwell you should rest, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol to treat fever or pain if necessary. If you experience symptoms on your return to the UK, you should see your GP.


Visit your GP/practice nurse or a travel clinic before you go to check if you need any further vaccinations and medication and, as always when travelling abroad, you must have the right travel insurance.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

Everyone should enjoy the Games in Rio to the fullest. But, as with any Zika affected area, you should make sure you protect yourself by using a good insect repellent high in the ingredients DEET or Picardin - this is marked on the packaging. Buy it before you go, apply it before you get to your venue, be aware of the time before effectiveness fades, and wear loose-fitting long-sleeved tops and trousers. You should take extra care as the mosquitoes bite during the day and the night.

If you are pregnant, my advice is to postpone travel if possible, but if you have to go, visit your doctor first so they can give you all the advice you need for the trip. If you do travel, use condoms during sex for the rest of your pregnancy. All people should use condoms during sex while at the Olympics and for 8 weeks after they get back.

There is more advice on avoiding mosquito bites from Public Health England.

You can also stay ahead of the games and download a travel checklist.

Published 5 July 2016