Today’s (Jan. 31) LA Times Travel section addressed the issue of travel insurance and if people who canceled trips due to fear of the now burgeoning Zika virus would be covered. The answer was pretty much ‘no’. However later today news sources such as the Jamaica Observer reported the good news that some cruise lines such as Carnival have started waiving cancellation penalties for some customers booked on voyages to the Caribbean and other regions affected by the Zika virus. Carnival says it will allow allow pregnant women (the most vulnerable due to the effect the virus has on the fetus) on sailings that include stops in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other destinations impacted by the virus to switch to an itinerary to an unaffected area. The line also said that passengers can postpone their trip or cancel outright and receive a future cruise credit.
Norwegian Cruise Line followed suit allowing pregnant women sailing to affected areas to postpone trips to a later date or change itineraries. Ditto for Royal Caribbean which is also giving pregnant women alternative options.
This Examiner reported about the Zika virus on Jan. 27, 2016 in an article that explained that a major travel advisory had been issued by the World Health Organization about the alarming spread of the Zika virus which is now serious situation in 22 countries with one case discovered in Hawaii—when a brain-damaged baby was born to a woman visiting the island–but not the rest of the United States. According toeturbonews, Australian virologists say the mosquito-borne Zika virus, linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, has already been discovered in Australia in travelers returning from South America. The virus detected in some tourists returning from South America and has been linked to brain damage in babies in Brazil.
Authorities are urging pregnant women to delay travel where there are outbreaks. So far only one such mosquito is present in Australia — the Aedes aegypti mosquito — which is found only in far north Queensland but the Australian Foreign ministry has issued a warning for travel to 22 countries affected by the virus, including many in South and Central America, and the Pacific island nation Samoa. This advisory advice comes on the heels of a warning by the World Health Organisation that Zika virus is now likely to spread to all countries in South, Central and North America except Canada and Chile.
Brazil’s Health Ministry (see video) said in November that Zika was linked to a fetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains. About 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil more than 30 times more than in any year since 2010 and equivalent to 1 to 2 per cent of all newborns in the state of Pernambuco, one of the worst-hit areas.
If you can’t avoid travel to the affected areas be sure to arm yourself with a good mosquito repellent, wear long sleeves and keep all doors and windows closed in your cabin or hotel room.