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Zika Virus Affecting Travel To Latin America

Dorathy Gass

The Zika virus may have a negative impact on quite a few Americans looking to travel to Latin America and the Caribbean, with a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll indicating that 41 percent of those surveyed know of the illness, and say they are less likely to vacation in these areas. This is the latest indication that the disease could potentially be discouraging people from travelling to these areas, despite past popularity as getaways to escape the cold winter months.

While cruise ships and airline carriers have not reported a decrease in bookings due to the virus, many are aware of the mosquito-borne illness, which has also been linked to the microcephaly birth defect in babies, that has swept through Brazil. In fact, according to the poll that was conducted in early February, that surveyed close to 1,600 Americans, awareness of the disease has increased close to two-thirds. Quite comparable to the 45 percent statistic from a poll conducted late in January.

One respondent, ‘Erica’ stated, she is concerned, as she is currently trying to get pregnant with her spouse. Erica got bit by a mosquito during a Virgin Islands trip in January; an area where the Zika virus has been reported. She states that she has scrapped her plans for a summer visit to Jamaica now.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out an advisory, recommending pregnant women avoid travelling to regions where there is currently a Zika outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called this illness a global emergency.

According to the poll, 41 percent of respondents who knew of Zika were now less likely to visit Mexico, Puerto Rico, or South America within the next year, because of the disease. Approximately 48 percent stated that the illness would not change their travel plans; and the others weren’t sure, either way.

Reuters reports that while there is so much uncertainty around the illness, and whether or not it is indeed connected with the microcephaly birth defect, which causes an abnormally small head size in infants; Brazil is currently looking into the issue, to confirm (or deny) a potential link between Zika, and the close to 4,500 microcephaly cases that are being reported within the country.