Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel notice to U.S. citizens planning to visit certain countries in Latin America and some other parts of the world in response to the latest reports of the Zika virus outbreaks.
At the moment, the CDC and corresponding government health agencies from other countries have warned the citizens about traveling to the following countries and destinations: Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, U.S. Virgin Islands, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, Cape Verde and Samoa.
As a result, a number of U.S. airlines have started offering ticket exchanges and cancelations for customers who planned on traveling to the affected areas. For example, United Airlines is offering full refunds or chances to rebook for later dates. American Airlines, TAM Airlines and LAN Airlines are allowing pregnant customers to re-book or get full refunds. In order to get these, however, they need to produce a doctor’s note to prove they are, in fact, pregnant. Southwest Airlines is also following the CDC guidelines and offering changes to bookings without charging additional fees.
Carnival, one of the largest American cruise lines is also helping their customers reschedule their cruises to areas that have been affected by the Zika virus. They require verifications of pregnancy and upon presenting such a verification, pregnant customers will be able to re-book or cancel their cruises altogether.
Different tour operators and other companies in the tourism industry are reporting cancellations and diminished interest for destinations that have been mentioned by the CDC’s travel alert.
For those who are not familiar with the Zika virus, it comes from the family which also includes yellow fever, dengue fever and West Nile viruses. It is not a particularly dangerous virus as it causes mostly mild symptoms such as headaches, rash, fever, joint pains and conjunctivitis. It is treated symptomatically, with rest and fluids being the first line of defense. The immune system usually clears the virus out within a week. The virus is carried by mosquitoes who can transmit it by biting a person.
The reason why this particular outbreak has garnered so much attention as of lately is that some research indicates that the Zika virus can cause microcephaly and brain damage in children whose mothers are infected during pregnancy. This is why pregnant women and women who are planning on getting pregnant have been especially warned about traveling to areas which are experiencing the Zika virus pandemic.