Should you visit Brazil, the Caribbean or Florida?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

mosquitoDespite the Brazilian’s governments press releases saying that the chances of catching the Zika virus, some high profile sports people like Rory McIlroy have decided to miss the Olympics this year.

In many Caribbean islands including the US possession of Puerto Rico, the Zika virus has taken hold. Now there is an outbreak in the US state of Florida where, for the first time, it looks like mosquitos in the Miami area have infected people rather than the virus being brought back from Brazil by travellers.

In some ways the outbreaks in the Caribbean and Florida are more concerning for those living in the UK or Ireland because more of us holiday and travel there than in Brazil despite the attraction of the Olympics in Rio.

Should you continue to holiday in Florida if you are of child-bearing age? If the virus is contained to the Miami region in the south of the state, does that mean that holidaying in the entertainment state capitals of Orlando and Kissimmee is safe?

We know that the Zika virus is unlikely to harm most age groups but those who are pregnant – or their sexual partners – are more than usually vulnerable. The fact that last February, the World Health Organisation declared that is a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” May have worried some.  But it also said that it “found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of (the) Zika virus.”

The worry is that scientists are still assessing what effect this virus is capable of affecting. Although known since 2014 following an outbreak in the islands of the south Pacific Ocean, not of a lot of international attention was paid to it until it affected Brazil which, as the Olympic games host country, could expect to see many more tourists than usual and from all parts of the world.

In a story written in The Annals of Internal Medicine and published last week, by Joseph Lewnard, Gregg Gonsalves and Albert I Ko, the likelihood of people returning from Brazil carrying the virus is very low. The incubation period is estimated at 9.9 days so, theoretically, the chances of returning infected are low. August in Brazil is winter and the activities of mosquitos is low which also suggests that there will be less likelihood of catching the virus

But the story must have been written before the outbreak in Miami. As I said earlier, more of us will visit and holiday in that state than will visit Brazil. And it will be peak summer in Florida so does that mean the mosquitos will be more active? But it has yet to be proven that mosquitos in the Miami area are carrying the virus as none that have been trapped so far are carrying it. Could there be another answer to the fact that three men and one woman have the Zika virus?

For those travelling to Florida, the latest advice from the Florida Department of Health (updated daily) can be found here.  Based on that and until more is known, those pregnant should give thought as to whether they should travel to Florida or the Caribbean this holiday period.

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