Travel Alert: What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

Worried about the Zika virus when traveling this winter? Here's a few facts you might want to know

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Because March Break is quickly approaching and despite the mild winter we’ve had so far (for the most part) we’re looking longingly south this time of year as usual. But, in addition to weather patterns, malaria and Montezuma’s Revenge we now have to worry about coming into contact with the Zika virus…should we be worried? We spoke with Michael Duchesne, publisher of Travelzoo Canada and got his take on travel right now.

Who should be worried about Zika?

Ultimately, the risk to Canadians is low. To date, there have been no reported cases of the virus acquired domestically.

The recommendation for pregnant women or those trying to conceive is to discuss all travel plans with their doctor and consider postponing travel to Zika affected areas or to choose alternative destinations (see below for cancellation options).

If you’re not pregnant, the risk is diminished so it’s up to you whether you want to alter your plans. It’s important to know that most people recover fully from the Zika virus without severe complications.

If you are still worried after speaking with your doctor, consult with the Public Health Agency of Canada for any outstanding questions or concerns.

What destinations are most risky?

Cases have been reported in Brazil, Chile (Easter Island), Colombia, El Salvador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.

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Wear long-sleeved shirts and use insect repellant

What you can do if you’ve already booked a vacation to one of the destinations affected with Zika?

Major Canadian airlines have followed the lead of U.S. carriers, like United and American, allowing passengers to alter bookings. Call your carrier and find out your options. Many require passengers to produce a medical note in order to change dates and destinations altogether. Travel companies are also easing restrictions, but it is recommended to ask about cancellation options.

Resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean often take proactive steps in times like these, spraying mosquito repellent and offering mosquito netting for beds.

If you do decide to go to a destination that is deemed at risk, take necessary precautions, including measures to prevent mosquito bites. Use proper repellent, minimize skin exposure, stay away from areas with stagnant water sources, use air conditioning indoors and use screens for doors and windows.

What type of travel insurance will cover you?

If you don’t qualify for the free trip cancellations offered by airline and tour companies, it’s important to stress that standard travel insurance policies will not cover cancellations for bookings to affected areas either. Only the ‘cancel-for-any-reason’ upgrade allows travellers to cancel because of the Zika virus. This upgrade can be pricier so if you are looking to book travel insurance you’ll have to assess your needs.

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Key West, Florida

Alternative destinations for those looking for to avoid Zika?

The majority of Canadians are still planning to vacation in Mexico or the Caribbean but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you have plenty of other options. Travelzoo is seeing some great current deals to Europe—places like Iceland and Poland—as well as more exotic locales like China. Why not take advantage of these deals and go somewhere you haven’t been before. If you want some sun and sand, consider the southern U.S., Bahamas, Jamaica, Cuba or other countries that haven’t been affected. Bear in mind though that new cases can still be found so cover yourself with the appropriate insurance when booking if you’re worried about needing to cancel your trip.

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