What is the current situation?

The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 to 21 August, 2016, followed by the Paralympic Games which are scheduled from 7 to 18 September, 2016. If you plan to travel to Brazil for the Olympics or Paralympics you should follow the recommendations below to help you stay safe and healthy.

Brazil is currently experiencing an outbreak of Zika virus, along with many other countries in South America and around the world. As Zika virus infection in pregnant women can cause serious birth defects in the baby, there is special advice for pregnant women travelling to Brazil. See “Zika Virus in Pregnancy” on this page for more information.

There are a number of other health risks that travellers should also be aware of when visiting Brazil and other countries in South America.

Zika virus in pregnancy

Because Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects in the baby, special precautions are recommended for the following groups:

Women who are pregnant

  • Strongly consider not going to the Olympics.
  • If you must go, talk to your doctor first; strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites (see the detailed advice on the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard page) and use condoms or do not have sex during your trip.
  • If you have a male partner who goes to the Olympics, either use condoms or do not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during your pregnancy.

Women who are trying to become pregnant

  • Before you or your male partner travel, talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk of Zika virus infection.
  • See the Zika virus fact sheet for advice on how long you should wait to try to get pregnant after travel to areas with Zika.
  • You and your male partner should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites (see the detailed advice on the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard page).

Men who go to the Olympics and have a pregnant partner

  • You should use condoms or not have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) during the pregnancy.

What should travellers do to protect themselves?

Before you travel

  • See your General Practitioner or travel doctor 4-6 weeks before your trip for general health and vaccination advice, including boosters for routine vaccinations (including those you should have had in childhood such as measles), and special vaccinations you might need for your destination.
  • Brazil is listed as a yellow fever risk country as the virus is found in some rural parts of the country (but not in Rio de Janeiro). A vaccination against yellow fever is recommended for travellers to risk countries, although it is not usually recommended for children less than 9 months of age or pregnant women (see The Australian Immunisation Handbook for more information on yellow fever vaccination recommendations).
  • Malaria is also prevalent in some parts of Brazil and your doctor may recommend antimalarial medications in addition to precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Antimalarial medications usually need to be started before you depart and be continued for a period of time after you return.

During your travel

  • Prevent mosquito bites and use insect repellent. Read the detailed advice on the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard page.
  • Follow food and water safety recommendations. Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water can cause illnesses such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and travellers’ diarrhoea. Read about how to prevent these diseases on the Staying healthy when travelling overseas page.
  • Don't touch the animals. Rabies is a risk in South America and can be carried by many mammals, including cats, dogs, bats and monkeys. Animals also carry many other infections.
  • Practice safer sex by using condoms to reduce the risk of catching sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, hepatitis B, gonorrhoea and shigellosis. These infections maybe more common in some overseas countries than in Australia.
  • Follow the other travel tips on the Staying healthy when travelling overseas page.

After your trip

  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about your recent travel.
  • To protect sexual partners from Zika, men who have been to the Olympics should consider using condoms or not having sex for 8 weeks even if they do not get symptoms of Zika.
  • Men who have Zika symptoms or are diagnosed with Zika should use condoms for 6 months. If the man’s partner is pregnant, the couple should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.
  • Women who have travelled to an area with Zika should wait at least 8 weeks after travel before trying to get pregnant even if they do not get symptoms of Zika. Women who have Zika symptoms should wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms start; men with Zika symptoms should wait at least 6 months after symptoms start before attempting conception. For more information, see the Zika Virus fact sheet page.
  • If you are feeling unwell after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while travelling.
  • If your doctor prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking the medication after you return home as directed. If you stop taking your medicine too soon you could still get sick.

Further information

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Page Updated: Tuesday 23 May 2017
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases