7 Things You Need to Know About the Zika Virus When Traveling to the Caribbean

tiger mosquito

Sun, surf, and piña coladas, what could possibly go wrong?

Like the all too familiar beginnings of a horror movie, beyond the turquoise waters, something evil is lurking, waiting to pounce on the blissfully ignorant sunbathers.

Cue Jaws theme song.

It’s the Zika virus!!!

Though it sounds like a zombie movie (Invasion of the Zika Virus), the latest mosquito-borne illness is a real threat to many regions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and the spine-tingling headlines and images of newborns affected by microcephaly are no doubt alarming.

Therefore if you do have an upcoming vacation planned to any of the countries where the Zika virus carrying mosquitoes reside, you should carefully consider the risks before traveling.

First and foremost, consult your doctor if you have any concerns. This article is by no means written by a doctor or claims to establish any medical expertise, but rather is a guideline for things to consider if you do choose to travel to affected areas.

What you need to know about the Zika virus

According to the Center for Disease Control in the United States, the Zika virus disease is a disease that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected virus-carrying mosquito.

Unfortunately, traveling to any tropical country dictates that in exchange for enjoying the warm weather and white sand beaches, you must cohabitate with mosquitoes. But it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. There are several things to know to have an enjoyable time.

1Check the cancellation and refund policies with your travel partners

Before you go, it is best to call and confirm the cancellation and refund policies for your flight, hotel reservation, Airbnb rental, boat trip, or any other trip-related activity in the event of a cancellation. Make sure they know your concern is regarding the Zika virus. Most companies in countries affected by the virus will have provisions and policies in place for any guests who may want to cancel because of concerns surrounding the virus.

If all else fails, invest in travel insurance. Depending on the particular policy, travel insurance is a way that clients can protect up to 80 percent of their investment. Check with your provider for a type of travel insurance called “Cancel For Any Reason” or “Cancel Anytime,” which allows you to cancel your trip 48 hours or more before departure in the event that your travel provider does not refund you.

2The Zika virus won’t kill you

If you do decide to go through with the trip, know that the Zika virus won’t kill you, despite its ominous name. In reality, Zika virus symptoms are actually less severe than some of the other mosquito-borne illnesses, like dengue fever or chikungunya, which in the most severe cases can kill you. Symptoms of the Zika virus on the other hand, assuming you are not pregnant, will have similar symptoms to that of a mild flu, plus a rash.

3Wear loose fitting clothing

Mosquitoes thrive on warm, humid climates and breed in stagnant pools of water. They feast on your blood and are drawn to the carbon dioxide that you exhale.

While I’m not suggesting to layer up in pants and a turtleneck in 80 degree weather, I do recommend that the ladies wear a loose fitting sarong and men can opt for long shorts or socks. Mosquitoes tend to fly close to the ground so as long as you protect yourself waste down, you should be covered.

4Mosquitoes are not big fans of the cold

A good reason to run the air conditioning is to combat mosquitoes, who are not as well adapted to cold temperatures. When temperatures drop, so do their movements so they are easier to spot and kill.

5Mosquitoes never say die

It seems that whenever I reach for my bug swatter, the mosquitoes immediately disappear. It’s like they have some kind of sixth sense that can see the future, and react before I’ve had a chance to even raise my paddle.

I have tried a variety of different mosquito repellents but no matter what product you use, it is difficult to avoid not being bitten. Repellents with DEET are typically the most effective. If you prefer natural remedies, try using lemon or citronella-based products. Or try sacrificing a leg to the mosquito and then when it’s fat and full of your blood you’ll have an easier chance of killing it because it moves slower.

6Whatever you do, don’t scratch the mosquito bites

I know you want to scratch it. You’ve never wanted anything more in your life than to scratch the goddamn mosquito bite on your leg. But whatever you do, do not scratch it! If you scratch too much, you’ll break the skin and form a scab and once that scab comes off, you’ll be left with a patch of skin that is lighter than the rest of your skin. Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll end up with polka dots all over that look like a skin disease. Trust me, I made that mistake and am still trying to tan myself back to one shade.

7If all else fails, embrace it

After a while, the battle wears you out. You keep killing mosquitoes but they keep coming back. At some point, you must give in to defeat and realize there is just one of you and millions, maybe billions of mosquitoes in the world and they won’t stop until they’ve fed on you.

“Here I am, mosquitoes, come and get me!”, you shout, knees sunk to the floor in submission. They feast their eyes on the fresh meat, and devour you, but what doesn’t kill you will you make you stronger, and perhaps, more immune.

The cure for the Zika virus

The bottom line is, it is nearly impossible to not get bitten by a mosquito at least once if you are traveling to the Caribbean or Latin America, or any other warm weather location for that matter. Unfortunately there isn’t a vaccine for the Zika virus either.

But the chances of actually getting infected by the Zika virus are slim. And even if you do, it is not the end of the world. It will only put you out of commission for a day or two, and the symptoms are not bad enough to stand in the way of you getting your tan on. No reason to let a little bug get in the way of your vacation!

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