Last year, the Ebola virus was the disease getting your clients thinking about their travel medical insurance, their trip cancellation insurance, and any protection they might have against quarantine costs.
This year, the Zika virus is the microbe causing panic and threatening to cause a widespread epidemic.
The disease is spread by mosquitoes. For most adult patients, Zika symptoms seem to be less severe than dengue fever symptoms, but some doctors fear that the virus may hurt unborn babies, by causing problems — such as “microcephaly,” or an unusually small head — that could kill a baby or leave a baby with severe developmental issues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently put out a travel alert aimed at pregnant women planning to travel to the Central American, Caribbean and some South American countries already affected by the virus.
Some insurance agents and brokers are already talking to clients and prospects about the Zika virus through print newsletters, e-mail newsletters, social media posts and website bulletins.
SquareMouth, a travel insurance Web broker, has set up a Zika Virus and Travel Insurance Information Center section on its website. The site includes all of the coverage provider Zika virus position statements SquareMouth has received.
TravelSafe Insurance, a unit of the Chester Perfetto Agency, reported in a recent blog entry that it can still sell travel medical insurance and other coverage for travel to the affected regions without Zika-related exclusions or limitations. The CDC warning is not a something a consumer can use to collect ordinary trip cancellation or trip interruption benefits, although a consumer with cancel for any reason (CFAR) protection can use the CFAR benefits, the blogger said.
What do you tell your own clients?
For a start, here’s a collection of CDC information that you can use in client communications.
What we know (as of press time):
It’s believed that the virus originated in either tropical Africa or Asia.
The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which lives mostly in tropical areas, and the Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) mosquito, which lives in many areas in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Both mosquitoes look eerily similar, with tiny white stripes on their legs, bodies and wings (see picture above).
The CDC estimates that, once people are bitten by an infected mosquito, about 1 in 5 will become ill.
The CDC still isn’t sure how long the incubation period is, but it estimates the incubation period to be within a few days to a week, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. (Check out the symptom checklist on the second page, here.)
There have been two unconfirmed cases of the Zika virus possibly spreading through sexual contact.
A blood test can determine if a patient is infected with Zika, and rule out the possibility that the patient might be infected with other viruses.
Mosquitoes that bite patients with the Zika virus can spread the virus to other people.
The CDC recommends that patients who have Zika get rest, plenty of fluids, and take acetaminophen for the fever or pain. The CDC recommends that patients avoid taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen until dengue fever can be ruled out, to reduce the risk of hemorrhage.
Both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are expecting the virus to spread to all countries in the Americas but Canada and continental Chile.
The official CDC travel health notice applies to travel by pregnant women to the following countries:
- Caribbean: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico and Saint Martin
- Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama
- South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela
Do YOU have Zika?
Have you traveled recently to a Zika infected country?
Have you been bitten by a mosquito while in that infected country?
Have you had any of the symptoms described in the list below?
Did you visit your doctor and did they test you for Zika?
If you answered yes to those questions: Do not panic.
Avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes again (see the infographic on the next page) and follow your primary physician’s orders.