With 31 travel-related cases of infections from the Zika virus reported in the U.S since 2015, many vacationers have become wary of traveling where the virus runs rampant – the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America. Travel companies across the country are scrambling to satisfy customers who have suddenly changed their minds.
Popular travel companies including Delta, Norwegian Cruise Line, Liberty Travel, and United Airlines have agreed to accommodate their pregnant customers and their families who booked trips and have since changed their minds. While each company has different terms, most have agreed to refund, rebook, or reschedule trips free of charge for individuals whose trips are set to go to affected regions.
Following yesterday’s briefing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several airlines released their own statements, each varying in tone, regarding the safety of their customers. Delta Airlines’ website now features a looming travel advisory, referencing a CDC contact number for further information.
Other travel companies have followed suit, including popular vacation cruise lines like Carnival, which issued a statement advising customers to take “general precautions against insects by covering exposed skin and using CDC recommended insect repellent.”
By comparison, companies such as Liberty Travel and Norwegian Cruise Lines have released less dire statements regarding the security and safety of their customers. When asked about canceling reservations, a Liberty Travel agent said that it was “relatively still safe to travel” if customers “took the proper precautions” and that they are “not going to get sick” while traveling with them. Yet the travel advisory recently released by the CDC highly suggest that pregnant women avoid going to affected regions if possible. The CDC is working alongside the World Health Organization to come up with new ways to protect the public against the mosquito-transmitted disease.
According to the CDC, a vaccine will not be available for the virus until 2017. Meanwhile the CDC has advised pregnant women in affected regions to wear long-sleeved clothing, stay indoors in air conditioned buildings, and to wear DEET mosquito repellent whenever outside.
Among the key facts about the Zika virus:
- Death is rare.
- One in five people infected will actually become ill.
- The virus can cause a brain defect called microcephaly in babies: an abnormal smallness of the head which can lead to problems with brain development.
- Zika is spread through the Aedes aegypti mosquito (the same mosquito known for spreading other viruses such as dengue fever and chikungunya viruses).
- Most cases in the U.S are the result of individuals having recently travelled.
Dr. Anthony Fauci the Director of NIAID, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the disease is likely to spread up and down the southeast specifically “along the gulf coast and Florida.” To the relief of many Florida citizens, however, Dr. Fauci also said that the virus is not expected to become “widespread.” In addition, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s Principal Deputy Director, said that the U.S is less densely populated than, say, Brazil. That and prevalence of air conditioning in the U.S should inhibit transmission of the disease. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 24 countries.