The Itinerary

Should I stay or should I go? Zika virus and spring break

Posted Mar 11, 2016 8:30:00 AM in Epidemics and Pandemics, Travel Safety Advice by Amanda Hand


Should I stay or should I go? That is a question a lot of travelers are asking themselves as spring break approaches and the Zika virus continues to spread through the most popular destinations for families and college students. Following general spring break safety tips isn't enough. Travelers want to know the risk of the Zika virus. 

The Chicago Tribune says in Taking the Kids -- Zika virus and spring break, "The good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in five people infected with Zika (primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito) will get sick. So far, those who have gotten sick in the U.S. were infected outside of the country, though it appears the virus can also be spread through sexual contact. And once you have Zika, you are unlikely to get it again. The bad news, as we all now know, however, is that ZIKA has been linked to devastating birth defects of the brain called microcephaly." 

Statistically speaking, travelers have little to worry about as the virus is known to have mild symptoms that only 1 in 5 will experience, but unless you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, there is little evidence supporting much of the circulating concerns regarding the Zika virus. 

Dr. H. Cody Meissner, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, says at this time there is no evidence supporting worries that the Zika virus has serious effects on both young or older children.  

There are also zero reported accounts of infants contracting Zika through breastfeeding, which is great news. However, it is recommended you don't travel if you have a newborn as they are not fully immunized and are at risk for colds, flu or worse. 

While it is not recommended that babies under two months be exposed to insect repellent, you can use those products on older babies and children. If you are traveling with a baby, it is still a good idea to use a mosquito net on their stroller and other carriers as an extra precaution. 

Mosquito repellents with 20% DEET are most effective against mosquitoes, and following the CDC guidelines, like covering any exposed skin with loose fitted, long sleeved clothing and hats, can provide extra protection. As long as you are not pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the standard protection against mosquitoes should be enough to keep your travel plans on track. 

If you are still set on changing your travel plans, there are destinations where you can travel worry free of the Zika virus -- like an Alaskan cruise or a spa in Iceland -- but many different tour operators, airlines and cruise lines are offering refunds or credits for future travel with their organization. You will have to check before canceling as they are doing it on a case-by-case basis. 

Megan Freedman, executive director of the US Travel Insurance Association says, "This is one case you can't necessarily count on travel insurance, unless you have bought a policy that allows "cancel for any reason." Most policies don't cover cancellation due to fear of travel. Read the fine print." 

"Fear of travel is something that most travel insurance companies are not able to cover, which is why Cancel For Any Reason was brought into the market," says Scott Perfetto, President of TravelSafe Insurance. "We wanted travelers to have the option to cancel if something campe up that was not covered, but in a way that kept the prices of travel insurance reasonable so people did not have to choose between their budget and protecting themselves and their travel investment." 

We advise the travelers who wonder about the Zika virus and spring break to address their concerns with their hotels, travel agents, or tour operators. There may be something they can do for you. Whether they adjust your location or potentially provide you with a refund, they may be able to accommodate you because they want their customers to remain happy. 

As Dr. Meissner says, "We don't know the full spectrum of the disease. This is an individual decision every family member has to make."