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Zika in the Caribbean: What You Need to Know

Caribbean Wellness
by Mike Huxley Oct 27, 2017

Zika virus is an infectious disease that is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites. It is closely related to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and there is currently no known vaccine.

For most people Zika presents as a mild infection and is not harmful in the long term.

The real risk is for women who are either pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Zika virus has a strong link with birth defects, the most notable being microcephaly — a condition that affects brain and skull development.

For this reason, pregnant women are advised to avoid or delay traveling to any Zika-affected country.

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) the Zika virus has spread through most of the Caribbean. The CDC issues alert levels for Zika-affected countries. Many Caribbean countries are currently at alert level 2, and the CDC advises that pregnant women avoid nonessential travel to these places.

Note: country statuses change frequently so it is important to check the most up-to-date travel advisories before you book.

Zika-free travel destinations in the Caribbean

According to the CDC, Zika is not currently present in American Samoa, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Barthélemy. These lesser-visited destinations might be an ideal alternative for travelers concerned about Zika.

Zika in Aruba

Zika is present in Aruba and is being transmitted to humans via mosquito bites.

The small Dutch-administered island is part of the aptly named ABC island chain, along with Bonaire and Curacao. With its white sand beaches, glorious weather, and luxurious resorts it has long been a popular spot for romantic getaways, honeymoons, and babymoons.

Unfortunately, the island is currently at alert level 2, which means that pregnant women should find a different Caribbean vacation spot that is Zika free.

Zika in the Bahamas

Zika has also been confirmed in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is a collection of more than 700 islands in the Caribbean Sea that stretch from the North Atlantic to Florida’s east coast. The country has long been a popular maritime playground for sun-seeking visitors and cruise ship passengers.

Like Aruba, the Bahamas is at alert level 2, which means that it is essential that all travelers are extremely careful to avoid or prevent mosquito bites and higher risk groups should avoid all non-essential travel.

Zika in Barbados

Zika is present in Barbados and is being transmitted to people via infected mosquitoes. Barbados is popular for its picture-postcard beaches and opulent resorts. But with a long history and its UNESCO world heritage capital, the island is far more than simply a beach destination.

Despite being another ideal spot for honeymooners and romantic retreats, the island is currently at alert level 2 which means that mosquito bite prevention measures should be carefully observed and pregnant women should look elsewhere for the time being.

Zika in the Dominican Republic

Zika is confirmed to be present in the Dominican Republic.

Unlike its less fortunate neighbor, Haiti, the Dominican Republic has a strong, growing economy and rapidly-improving living standards. The most popular travel destination in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic draws visitors with its fascinating history, lively culture, and spectacular beaches.

As with many of its Caribbean neighbors, the country is currently at Zika alert level 2, which means enhanced precautions and avoiding non-essential travel for higher-risk groups.

Zika in Cuba

Zika is confirmed as present in Cuba, and mosquitos are transmitting the virus to humans. The outbreak comes at a tragic time for the country, as the gradual easing of US travel restrictions had otherwise promised a transformation for the tourism industry.

But the official advice is still that travelers should take enhanced precautions against mosquito bites and that at-risk groups such as pregnant women should avoid Cuba for now.

Zika in Puerto Rico

Zika is confirmed in Puerto Rico. Although the local authorities have declared that the epidemic is over, the island is still listed at alert level 2 by the CDC which means that enhanced mosquito bite precautions should still be practised, pregnant women should avoid visiting, and safe sex should be practised.

Zika in Jamaica

As with most of the Caribbean, Zika is present in Jamaica and is being transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Much of inland Jamaica is relatively mountainous and Zika-carrying mosquitoes are rarely found above 6,500 feet. But most tourists tend to stay in resorts around the coast and are still at risk. As such, the country is listed by the CDC at alert level 2, enhanced precautions are advised, and the current advice for pregnant women is to avoid all travel to

Bonus Zika-free destination: Bermuda

Although not technically in the Caribbean, the island of Bermuda is considered close enough by most visitors and remains free from the Zika-carrying mosquito.

There have been several cases of Zika in Bermuda, but to date, they have all been imported by visitors from elsewhere. Bermuda is a major stop-off point for cruise ships but also a popular travel destination in its own right, combining trademark tropical beaches with a rich and varied cultural heritage. It’s within a two-hour flight from most eastern US hubs, making it a top contender for Zika-free island breaks.

Note that Zika can also be transmitted sexually, so higher-risk groups should remain cautious.

All information was correct at time of publication but travelers should be sure to check the latest CDC Zika advisories before booking.

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