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 may be able to help, but it will important to know the limitations of your plan. Many may think their travel insurance covers Trip Cancellation due to fear of contracting Zika virus, but chances are that is not the case.
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.
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 for cancellation, but fear of pandemics is not on the list. If you are worried about contracting Zika virus and want to cancel your trip, your travel insurance plan will most likely not cover you.
But that does not mean travelers can't qualify for trip cancellation coverage due to pandemic/epidemic. If the government closes entry into a destination on your itinerary or your destination is quarantined, your travel insurance may cover cancellation. Without an official government shutdown or quarantine, you are not eligible for coverage.
2. Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR)
This benefit was designed to help travelers maximize their coverage. With CFAR, you're able to cancel your trip with no questions asked.
The cancel for any reason benefit is a traveler's best bet if they are at all concerned about Zika virus. You can cancel their trip and receive up to 75% of the prepaid losses back – depending on the travel insurance plan you purchased.
Plans that offer CFAR always have plan limitations. Be sure to refer to your plan documents for specifics. For example, 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 provider for details, or get a travel insurance quote with TravelSafe.
3. Trip Interruption
If you contract Zika virus while traveling, you may need to cut your trip short. Trip interruption can help reimburse you for any non-refundable, prepaid travel expenses and additional accommodations.
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/epidemic.
With proper documentation, you would be eligible for coverage.
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 "promise to pay" from your insurance provider. Travel insurance providers are able to call and guarantee the hospital payment, so you are not required to pay for treatment up front. Health insurance companies rarely offer a "promise to pay" option for travelers overseas.
Only 1 in 5 cases show symptoms after contracting Zika virus, but some of the most severe symptoms include paralyzation that can require life support. In the rare case that this happens, you may need an emergency evacuation.
Be sure to select a plan that covers emergency evacuation when traveling abroad.
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.