The Cayman Islands is the latest addition to the CDC's Zika travel alert list. Photo: H. Michael Miley
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Turks and Caicos to its Zika virus travel alert list.
The level two warnings advise pregnant women to avoid travel to the area, and recommend other travelers protect against mosquito bites and practice safe sex.
Other Caribbean islands and territories already on the list include: Barbados; Bonaire; Aruba; Curaçao; French Guiana; Cuba; Dominica; Belize; US Virgin Islands; Martinique; Saba; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Guadeloupe; Puerto Rico; St Martin; Saint Maarten; Trinidad and Tobago; Guyana; Haiti; Dominican Republic; Anguilla; St. Lucia; Grenada; St Eustatius; Suriname; St Barthelemy and Jamaica.
The regional outbreak hit the Caribbean’s normally strong tourism industry—a report from travel research firm STR cited it as the cause behind a 3% decline in Caribbean hotel occupancy during the first four months of 2016.
Destinations are working to ensure travelers are properly educated. The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism said it would “adjust our already robust marketing plans as needed to ensure the destination is top of mind and converts travel bookings from our target audience.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday declared a public health emergency for Puerto Rico. The declaration will give the nation access to additional support and funding to combat the epidemic, which has risen to over 10,000 cases.
In addition, the Caribbean Tourism Organization is working with health officials to deploy prevention and control measures to both residents and visitors to limit the number of new cases.
Still, Shawn Fitzpatrick, manager of Marlin Travel in Ontario, said Americans shouldn’t rule out travel to the Caribbean. “If you look at the numbers of travelers to the Caribbean that caught the virus compared to the number of total travelers to the Caribbean, the percentage is minuscule.”