Last updated: 03:58 PM ET, Fri February 05 2016

Mexico and Chile Officials: No Threat of Zika Virus Here

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | February 04, 2016

Mexico and Chile Officials: No Threat of Zika Virus Here

PHOTO via Thinkstock

The worldwide media coverage of the spread of the Zika virus has created an overexaggeration of the threat to tourists. That's the message that two tropical countries being connected to the virus want travelers to hear.

In a statement on Thursday, Mexico’s Ministry of Health said that it held a meeting with tour operators for the U.S. and Canada organized by the Mexico Tourism Board to discuss implications of the Zika virus. At the meeting, Dr. Alberto Diaz Quiñonez, deputy general director of the Mexican Institute for Diagnostic and Epidemiology, shared that Mexico has only 34 confirmed cases of the Zika virus, representing just 0.03 percent of the total cases reported globally. All of these cases are  from Mexican nationals living in rural areas, far from the tourist destinations frequently visited by international tourists.

“While the Zika virus is inevitable in Mexico given its vast size, climate and trade in the region, the number of cases remains very low," said Diaz. "Strong prevention efforts have already been in practice for years to prevent similar diseases.”

He went on to emphasize, “Given these facts, there is no threat to tourists visiting Mexico.”

READ MORE: What You Need To Know About Zika Virus and Travel Insurance

According to the release, Mexico’s major tourist destinations and businesses have practiced world-class procedures to control the mosquito population and minimize cases of dengue and other diseases for several years. Hotels, restaurants, airports and other areas frequently visited by tourists have mosquito eradication practices in place and closely follow international guidelines to monitor and control their growth.

Given that the Zika virus is contracted in a manner similar to other mosquito-borne diseases that Mexico has long been combating, the entire country and especially its tourist destinations, are already well prepared to contain this latest disease.

Diaz referenced the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Feb. 1, 2016, statement confirming that there is no reason to cancel or change travel plans to any country reporting Zika cases, including for pregnant women. With this advisory applying to all countries, even those with high numbers of cases, it’s yet another reason that Mexico, with a very low number of cases, continues to be a destination that millions of tourists are visiting each month.

READ MORE: How Travel is Reacting to Zika Virus

The group of international tour operators affirmed that Mexico’s comprehensive preparations and control measures give them the confidence to continue to recommend travel to Mexico for all tourists.

Meanwhile, Chile Tourism officials issued a statement today saying the vaste majority of the country is completely free of the virus.

Here is the full text of the statement:

Chile is a country that poses few health risks for both foreign and national tourists. The Undersecretary of Tourism confirmed that the country is completely free from the Zika virus, with the exception of Easter Island where there’s a presence of the Aedes vector mosquito.

Easter Island is located more than 3.000 kilometers by air from the country’s capital, Santiago, and has implemented all precautionary measures. No native cases of this particular enfermedad have been detected to date.

The Aedes mosquito belongs to tropical and subtropical climates. It cannot survive in our country because Chile posesses a number of natural barriers, including the Atacama Desert. Thanks to the desert’s temperatures, this insect cannot survive. The Cordillera de Los Andes is another natural barrier. Thanks to the high altitudes of area, it’s impossible for the mosquito to enter the country. The Patagonia is the final natural barrier in Chile, a place where the cold climates (the tundra and the ice) make it impossible for the vector to appear.

We’re a hygenically safe country for all who visit us and at present there’s no need for vaccination. Nor is there a need to present medical examination before entering the country. For this reason, it’s important that we orientate tourists with clear information, with the objective of sharing preventative measures that can help minimize the risk of contracting viruses that might put your health, and that of the surrounding community, at risk.

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