In 2015, Zika virus was declared a world health emergency by WHO and the CDC. Travelers need to take extra caution when booking trips to areas of threat.
The CDC has recommended pregnant women, those trying to conceive, and their partners avoid travel to affected areas. For those who have already booked a trip, travel insurance can help, but only under certain circumstances. Many may think their travel insurance covers Trip Cancellation because of the Zika virus, but there are several things travelers need to know.
It is important to note that each travel insurance plan is unique and can vary by state. Refer to documentation and speak with a company representative before purchasing a plan. It's the only way to really know what you are covered for.
It is important to note that TravelSafe plans and the coverage available are not impacted by this travel alert and are still eligible to be sold. Countries in the affected regions continue to be eligible destinations without exclusions or limitations for an epidemic or pandemic.
Let's take a look at how travel insurance can help, and where it can't.
1. Trip Cancellation
Trip Cancellation has a broad range of covered reasons, but fear of epidemic and pandemics is not on the list. This means, in order to use Trip Cancellation, you would have contracted the virus before your scheduled trip, and your physician would declare you're not fit for travel. Not really the best case scenario.
At this time, it is only recommended that pregnant women do not travel to affected areas. There is no government shut down or quarantine for Zika virus. So, it is unlikely Zika virus would fall under Trip Cancellation.
However, many travel insurance companies implemented the Cancel For Any Reason benefit for these scenarios.
This benefit was designed for scenarios similar to Zika virus. With CFAR, you are able to cancel their trip with no questions asked.
The Cancel For Any Reason benefit is a traveler's best bet if they are at all concerned with Zika virus. With CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason), travelers can cancel their trip and receive up to 75% of the prepaid losses back – depending on your travel insurer.
Plans with CFAR almost always have restrictions and exclusions. Make sure you check with your provider. For instance, CFAR plans must be purchased 10-21 days within the initial trip deposit and the full cost of the trip must be insured.
Check with your provier for details, or get a travel insurance quote with TravelSafe.
3. Trip Interruption
This benefit works similarly to Trip Cancellation. If the virus is contracted while travling, you're eligible to use the Trip Interruption benefit to cut your trip short.
Many travel insurance plans do not have an exclusion for pandemic or epidemic, which means this benefit would not be affected should the CDC or World Health Organization upgrade Zika from a world health emergency to a pandemic or epidemic.
With proper documentation, you would be eligible for reimbursement of any prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses, and any itinerary changes.
4. Emergency Medical Treatment
So what happens if you become ill with Zika while traveling? With the right travel insurance, you are most likely covered for diagnosis and treatment during your trip.
Foreign medical facilities will often require cash payment or a promise to pay from your insurance provider. Travel insurance providers are usually able to call and guarantee the hospital payment, so you are not required to pay for treatment up front.
Only 1 in 5 cases show symptoms after contracting Zika virus, but if your symptoms are severe, you may need emergency evacuation.
If you are traveling within a country whose medical facilities are not sufficient in treating the virus, you will want to take advantage of the Medical Evacuation benefit you may have.
Even though only 1 in 5 who contract Zika virus show symptoms, it is important to use caution while traveling. Follow the CDC's advice on preventing mosquito and bug bites.
If planning to travel within any of the affected areas, it is best to purchase a policy with the Cancel For Any Reason Benefit in case the conditions worsen or you and/or your traveling companion are to become pregnant.
To read TravelSafe's official press release regarding Zika virus - click here.