Puerto Rico Dedicated to Combatting Zika
PHOTO: Puerto Rico assures visitors that the destination is safe. (photo courtesy of Puerto Rico Tourism Company)
Puerto Rico’s Zika virus outbreak began in December and there have now been nearly 700 reported cases in the territory. Last month, one man, who lived in the San Juan area, died of a Zika-related condition resulting from the infectious bite. Death is rare with Zika related mosquito bites, but it can happen.
In light of the recent news, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, responsible for the promotion of tourism to the territory, is redoubling efforts to ensure safety for visitors. It has implemented a comprehensive program to protect its nearly four million residents and five million annual visitors and the Puerto Rico Department of Health is working in close collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent transmission of the virus.
"To put this situation into perspective, to date, less than one half of one percent of our population has been affected by the Zika virus,” said Ingrid I. Rivera Rocafort, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. “We are doing everything in our power to protect visitors to our island and ensure they can have a worry-free vacation.”
In addition to the government’s efforts, many businesses and resorts are independently monitoring mosquito populations and spraying to keep the bugs in check and eliminate breeding grounds.
"As a tropical island in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has significant experience dealing with mosquitos and related illnesses, and visitors to our island can feel confident that we are putting this expertise to work and protecting the safety and welfare of everyone who comes here,” said Rocafort. “We have been proactive in three key areas — preparation, prevention and protection — employing strategies to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, provide mosquito bite prevention messages, train health professionals, implement surveillance systems to better understand and manage the virus, and monitor any new research on preventive actions."
Despite its efforts to contain the virus, Puerto Rico is still having trouble convincing visitors the region is safe. Reports from Sports Illustrated suggest that it's possible Major League Baseball would cancel a series in Puerto Rico due to the virus, however, nothing has happened yet.
Currently, the CDC warns travelers to protect themselves from mosquito bites and provides a number of tips and ways in which to do so, including covering exposed skin, using EPA registered bug repellants containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535, sleeping under a mosquito net or in screened and air conditioned rooms.
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