For those traveling to Central and South America, there is growing concern about the Zika virus. The virus, spread through mosquito bites, can affect all travelers through fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. The CDC also lists muscle pain and headache as common symptoms.
The biggest concern is for pregnant women, or women who intend to be pregnant, who are traveling to the countries reporting cases of Zika. The virus has been linked to an increase in microcephaly in babies born from mothers who contract the virus. Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition that causes the infant to be born with a smaller head and a smaller brain.
Countries Listed in the CDC Zika Travel Alert
Due to the onset of the virus, the CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. These countries include:
- Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, US territory
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- Saint Martin
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- American Samoa
- Cape Verde
This list is updated as of February 9, 2016. For the most up-to-date list of countries, please visit the CDC website.
Travel Insurance Coverage and the Zika Virus
A comprehensive travel insurance plan or a travel medical plan is still an effective way to protect yourself from any added expenses due to the Zika Virus. You can still purchase a plan now, even after the virus has been reported and become a concern.
Emergency Travel Medical Insurance
Regardless of when you purchased your plan (before or after the Zika virus was highlighted by the CDC as a concern) if you contract the virus while traveling and need medical care – your emergency medical coverage on your plan will most likely reimburse covered medical costs.
Most travel insurance plans work by reimbursement. If you do spend time in a medical facility to combat the virus, remember to pick up ALL your medical documents and invoices prior to leaving the facility. This will help streamline a claims process when you return home.
Unfortunately, a standard comprehensive plan will most likely not cover trip cancellation due to the fear of contracting a virus. The only benefit, as of right now, that can be used to cancel your trip due to the fear of contracting Zika is Cancel for Any Reason.
If you fit the eligibility requirements, you can still purchase a comprehensive plan with Cancel for Any Reason coverage prior to your departure date. Cancel for Any Reason coverage typically requires the following (plan requirements will vary):
- Purchase within 10-30 days of your initial trip deposit
- Insure 100% of your pre-paid, non-refundable trip cost
- Cancel with your travel supplier, typically, up to 48 hours prior to departure
While Cancel for Any Reason does give you the flexibility to cancel your trip due to an increased fear of Zika, it does not protect 100% of your trip cost. Using the Cancel for Any Reason benefit will only reimburse up to 75% of your insured trip cost.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask the Question
The concern of travelers grows as the Zika virus becomes more real for Americans. We strongly recommend your first call be to your travel supplier (airline, cruise line or tour operator), if you are considering rescheduling or cancelling your trip. While not all travel companies have official positions on the virus, some are starting to allow travelers, especially pregnant women, to change their travel plans.
Of course, if you have any questions about travel insurance and the Zika virus, do not hesitate to contact our licensed representatives. They can answer any questions you have on an existing plan or offer advice on the best plan for your trip.
For all the up-to-date information on the Zika virus, prevention tips, countries in the concerned area and travel alerts – please visit the CDC website directly.