What’s the Buzz about Zika?

The Zika virus has been making news recently, and is of special concern to travelers who might be considering going to Zika-affected areas.  We hope the following information will be helpful.  Please keep in mind that this is an evolving situation with changes in our understanding occurring almost daily. Using the links provided near the bottom of this page will lead you to the most current information.

What is Zika?

Zika is a virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes. It usually causes a mild illness, but is now associated with a serious birth defect in a developing fetus called microcephaly.  Zika is also linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a serious auto-immune neurological condition.


The Aedes mosquito transmits Zika. It is active during the day and is known to bite humans. It can lay eggs in very small pools and puddles of water.  Aedes populations have been increasing over the past decade and are present in urban and rural areas. This mosquito also carries two viruses related to Zika: Dengue and Chikungunya.  These illnesses may often be more severe and serious than Zika; all three viruses may be present in a given location.  There have been multiple verified cases of sexual transmission of Zika from human-to-human as well.


Symptoms occur in only 1 in 5 people who are infected with Zika virus. Within a week after getting infected, people who are ill with Zika may develop symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes).  Symptoms are generally mild and usually last for less than a week.

More info : http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/index.html

Where are Zika outbreaks?

Since late 2015, there have been significant Zika outbreaks in many world regions, especially in Central America, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Cape Verde. The World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in February 2016.  More recently, starting in June and July 2016, there have been outbreaks due local mosquito transmission in certain parts of Miami, Florida.

Info on current Zika-affected areas : http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/

Is Zika in Montana?

The mosquito species which transmits Zika (Aedes) has not been found in Montana.  However, as of August 29, 2016, Gallatin County Public Health Department has identified two cases of Zika in local residents who were infected while traveling outside of Montana.

Pregnancy and Zika

Pregnant women who are infected with Zika are at increased risk of having babies with microcephaly. Microcephaly is a very serious birth defect in which an infant’s head is smaller than normal, and may be associated with developmental problems. There are currently no formal travel restrictions due to the Zika outbreak, but numerous governmental organizations in multiple countries are recommending that pregnant women or women intending to become pregnant in the near future not travel to areas with Zika outbreaks.  If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy in the coming months, please stay current on and follow CDC travel guidelines for Florida as well as US Territories and other Zika-infected areas (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html).

More info : http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy

Testing for Zika

At this time, testing in the US is available only for a limited number of people who meet specific criteria, and samples must be routed through very specific channels.  Please consult your healthcare provider or call your local health department or MSU SHS for more information.

Advice for Travelers


All travelers to areas with Zika should be very serious about excellent and effective insect protection!

To prevent mosquito bites, consider using PERMETHRIN on clothing DEET and/or PICARIDIN on your skin (may need to apply more than once a day) Wear protective clothing (long sleeves and pants) and footwear and avoid exposure to mosquito bites whenever possible

More info: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites

Follow pregnancy and sexual transmission precautions

Women of childbearing age who are traveling to an area with Zika virus should be extremely diligent to avoid getting pregnant and to prevent sexual transmission of Zika:

Use an appropriate birth control method with ANY and ALL sexual activity

If you are sexually active with someone who has been to a Zika area in the last 4 weeks, use condoms in additional to your regular method

CDC Zika Prevention Guidelines: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html

Further resources:

Further excellent current Zika information can be found at these websites:




Feel free to call MSU’s Student Health Service Travel Clinic 406-994-7287 with any questions or to discuss safe and healthy travel abroad, or e-mail [email protected]   Pre- and Post-Travel appointments are also available.

Updated 2019