As the Zeka virus continues to spread throughout tropical areas the Caribbean Tourism Department, issued information and updates about the mosquito-borne epidemic in an attempt to assuage cruise passengers and other visitors to the islands. The missive was released today, Feb. 3 and reported by eturbonews. The Zika which burgeoning in Brazil has been beating a fast rack to the Americas resulting in a Level 2 alert issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elevating its status to a ‘global crisis’ by the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus is contracted by mosquito bites but there has been one case where a Dallas woman contracted it after having sex with an affected partner. It mostly effects unborn babies causing brain damage so women are at high risk. It is worrisome for anyone intending to vacation in tropical areas such as the Caribbean, Tahiti and Brazil as well as for cruise passengers on itineraries that stop at hot spots.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) are attempting to avert panic and of course keep visitors coming and thus issued the following update and information (this is solely their opinion):
How is the Zika Virus impacting Caribbean Tourism?
It’s too early to tell but all indications are that there are very few cancellations as a result of Zika. The Caribbean set a record for visitors arrivals in 2015 and all indications point to continued growth and its popularity as one of the world’s most desirable warm weather destinations.
Should I cancel my Caribbean holiday?
No. However, as always we advise you to travel sensibly and to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself against insect bites, including mosquito bites, in very much the same way you would on any holiday in any tropical country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other health agencies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that Zika symptoms for the vast majority of people are mild and last two to seven days. In fact, according to the WHO and the CDC, four in five people who contract the virus never know they got it, and if you get it once you develop immunity for life.
What are some of the concerns?
Concerns have been raised about a condition known as microcephaly and its effects on the unborn children of pregnant women. However, the WHO itself has stated several times that it has no proof of a link between Zika and microcephaly. In fact, there is other research that suggests there is no link and that there are other causes of the suspected rise in cases in Brazil. There are also no reported cases of microcephaly linked to Zika outbreaks in other countries or regions. Also, according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), microcephaly is extremely rare in the Caribbean and there are no cases linked to Zika.
How worried is the Caribbean that Zika and the extensive news coverage will impact tourism this year?
We take the health and safety of our guests very seriously. Based on the evidence, we firmly believe that the Zika virus does not pose an extraordinary threat to visitors to the Caribbean. We will continue to closely monitor developments and if fresh evidence emerges that suggests otherwise we will advise accordingly.
In the meantime, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) remain in close contact with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to monitor and research the Zika cases in the Caribbean and to communicate prevention and control measures to residents and visitors, while the health authorities in our member countries are taking the necessary steps to limit the number of new cases.
Local populations and visitors alike are assured that the Caribbean remains open for business and safe for travel. The CTO and CHTA will continue to work closely with CARPHA to assess the situation, but we encourage visitors to continue with their travel plans to the Caribbean and follow the advice and precautions issued by the World Health Organization, similar to those which are provided to travelers to most tropical destinations.
The tourism organization also stated that the Zika outbreak has been concentrated in Brazil and South America, with approximately 1.5 million suspected cases in Brazil. By contrast, there have been around 200 suspected cases in the Caribbean, spread across about a dozen of the region’s 30-plus countries. It added that Caribbean countries and hotels continue their proactive measures similar to those used to combat other mosquito-borne viruses. Staff and guests are being provided with the necessary information so they become familiar with how it can be prevented, how it can be transmitted, its signs and symptoms. Insect repellent containing DEET is being placed in hotel rooms, or made easily available for purchase.
A number of cruise companies and airlines are waiving cancellation fees in regard to Zika. Travelers to afflicated areas are encouraged to use long lasting repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 on exposed skin.