Zika continues to be a serious concern for both travelers and their insurers, with popular winter destinations south of Canada reporting signs of an epidemic.
Species of Aedes mosquito act as vectors for the virus, leading to rapid infection in parts of South America. While the mosquitoes are considered the primary drivers for the outbreak, the virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions, sexual contact, urine, and saliva.
Notably, the risks of contracting the virus are purportedly lower in the winter months in Zika-affected regions, but authorities advise caution regardless.
The World Health Organization declared last January that Zika was “spreading explosively” in South America. The organization theorizes that four million people could be infected with the virus by the end of the year. The threat posed by the virus was such that a number of athletes, fans and journalists opted to avoid participating in this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Canadians with winter travel plans might aim to similarly avoid parts of Central America and other South American countries for the same reason. Several US states that have also reported Zika cases and might also be written off travel plans.
Although the danger posed by Zika is real, Expedia Canada marketing director Adam Francis believes it is too early to tell how fear of the virus will impact travel bookings.
“When it comes to the Zika virus, Expedia advises travellers to visit the Government of Canada or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for the latest information regarding travel to areas affected,” Francis told Toronto Star
. “Expedia is keeping up to date with supply partners on their policies, and should any traveller feel their plans are directly impacted, we encourage them to visit our customer service information page. . .”
In October, a consumer survey conducted by the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) found that 14% of those surveyed who were planning pregnancies decided to opt for vacations to Europe, as well as parts of the US and Canada, over destinations where Zika cases were confirmed. Another 35% said that they cancelled their plans altogether because of the infection.
The Toronto Star
reported that as of November 3, there were 4,128 Zika virus cases reported across the US. In Canada, there have been 359 travel-related Zika cases, as well as two sexually transmitted cases and two maternal-to-fetal transmission infections reported.
Although there is no cure for the virus, an international study aimed at developing a vaccine is being undertaken at Université Laval in Quebec City, with the cooperation of Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration.
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