Last updated: 02:11 PM ET, Fri January 29 2016

How Is Zika Virus Impacting Caribbean Tourism?

Impacting Travel | Brian Major | January 29, 2016

How Is Zika Virus Impacting Caribbean Tourism?

PHOTO: Hugh Riley, secretary general, Caribbean Tourism Organization. (Photo by Brian Major).

Caribbean tourism stakeholders moved quickly to address the Zika virus’ impact on the region’s tourism Thursday after World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday the virus was “spreading explosively” in the Americas. WHO officials will convene an emergency meeting Monday at which they may declare a public health emergency.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) are working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to “monitor and research” Zika cases that have surfaced in some Caribbean destinations, said Hugh Riley, CTO’s secretary general. The groups have produced a guide on Zika virus prevention and control for residents and visitors, said Riley.

He said CTO and CHTA officials are “in communication with our respective stakeholders” and “will continue to monitor all developments related to mosquito-borne viral diseases and to support appropriate communication, education and prevention initiatives.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued a level two alert recommending travelers “practice enhanced precautions” on trips to the Caribbean. The alert also specifies those countries which have confirmed cases to date. 

READ MORE: Zika Virus: What Travelers Need to Know

Meanwhile CARPHA is providing information on disease prevention and control measures for travelers arriving in the Caribbean. The information is based on “currently available scientific evidence,” say CTO officials. The information has been “adapted and prepared for the current Caribbean situation.”

Discussion regarding the Zika virus was front and center at last week’s Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Caribbean Marketplace conference. Riley stressed that counter to some perceptions, the virus did not originate in the Caribbean nor is its spread limited to the region.

“We are observing national, regional and international health protocols in dealing with mosquito-borne viral diseases which can be found in tropical countries as well as the warmer regions of the U.S.," said Riley.

Because the Caribbean region includes 700 islands across 30 territories, “conditions will vary from one nation to another,” said Riley.

READ MORE: CDC Expands Travel Warning for Zika Virus

Zika was first detected in the Americas in 2014 and since spread to several other countries. Common symptoms of Zika infection include mild fever and/or skin rash normally accompanied by conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain, and general feeling of illness beginning two to seven days following the bite of an infected mosquito.

Symptoms are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya and can last two to seven days. Current research indicates the virus cannot be transmitted person to person by close or casual contact with an infected person or through the air, food or water, according to CARPHA.  


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