West Nile virus

Preventing West Nile virus

If you are travelling to areas where West Nile virus (WNV) is present, you should be aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions.

Before you go

Make sure you are aware of potential risks, particularly if you are over 50 years of age, and take steps to protect yourself against mosquito bites.

There is no vaccine for WNV, although scientists are currently working on developing one.

Travel insurance and EHIC

Before travelling, take out adequate travel insurance for countries you will be visiting. Check your insurance policy gives information about what to do if you become seriously ill, and that it covers you for repatriation on medical grounds (returning you to the UK if you become unwell).

If you are travelling in Europe, make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as well as travel insurance. An EHIC is free and could save you unnecessary costs and difficulties if you need medical help while in Europe.

Read more about how do I get an EHIC? 

While you are away

You will need to ensure you are protected from biting mosquitoes at all times as there is no treatment for WNV.

If the virus is reported to be in or near the area where you are travelling, be particularly careful and pay close attention to local news about the movement of the virus.

You should follow the advice listed below while you are away.

  • The mosquitoes that carry WNV are most active around dusk and dawn, but some also bite during the day. You will therefore need to protect yourself if you are outside at these times. 
  • Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved tops and long trousers to cover up your skin as much as possible. 
  • Use an insect repellent on exposed skin, taking care to avoid your eyes. DEET-based insect repellents are thought most effective. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with insect repellent can help. 
  • Insect-proof screens on windows and doors and mosquito nets over the bed will reduce mosquito bites inside. Air conditioning and spraying insecticide in the room may also help. 
  • If necessary, mosquito coils (plugs) can be burned in enclosed areas to repel mosquitoes.  
  • Avoid areas where there are likely to be large numbers of mosquitoes, such as near water.

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