With all the talk of Zika swirling about, many people have begun wondering whether they should still plan a destination honeymoon. So far, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has 48 countries on the advisory list for the virus.
We talked to Meg Mirivel with the Arkansas Department of Health and two local travel agencies to find out their advice for honeymooners. While the situation continues to evolve on a day-by-day basis, here’s what you need to know before booking your honeymoon.
If a bride-to-be has already booked her honeymoon in a country with Zika, what would your advice be to her? Should she cancel her trip or just use extra caution if she plans on becoming pregnant soon after her trip?
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) recommend that you seriously consider traveling elsewhere for your honeymoon during this outbreak,” says Meg Mirivel, Public Information Officer with the ADH. “If a bride is pregnant or wants to become pregnant soon after marriage, ADH strongly recommends avoiding travel to areas with Zika if possible. Areas with ongoing Zika transmission include the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands.”
What should women who are pregnant or who plan on becoming pregnant do to avoid contracting the virus while on their honeymoon? What about women who are not pregnant or planning to be pregnant – what steps should they take to avoid the virus?
“If travel to these areas is absolutely necessary, travelers should avoid mosquitoes by using an EPA-approved mosquito repellent as directed, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using screens and air conditioning in their accommodations," says Mirivel.
Mirivel also said travelers should stay away from mosquitoes while vacationing and for almost a month after they get back home. Taking such steps can prevent Arkansas mosquitoes from getting the virus. If a woman is not planning to become pregnant, she should avoid mosquitoes and practice safe sex while vacationing and for another six months.
What do we know for sure about Zika and the tie to microcephaly?
“The connection between Zika and microcephaly has been confirmed,” Mirivel says. “Microcephaly is when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, and the brain does not develop as it should. Zika can also lead to miscarriage. We believe that Zika can affect a baby at all stages of a pregnancy, with the first trimester being the most dangerous.”
“There is a lot we still do not know about the link between Zika and microcephaly. For example, if a pregnant woman gets Zika, we do not know how likely it is for her pregnancy or baby to be affected – but limited information may indicate it is as high as 14 percent.”
What do you think is important for the general public to know about the virus?
“The infection in an adult is very mild,” Mirivel says. “Most people do not even have symptoms, and when they do, the symptoms go away in a few days. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red, itchy eyes. The main concern with Zika – and the reason we are talking about it – is the link with microcephaly and miscarriage.”
What are the main concerns you hear as a travel agent concerning Zika?
Kathy Primm of Sue Smith Vacations warns honeymooners that the concerns surrounding Zika are real. “Anyone that is pregnant and traveling to the destinations outlined in the travel.state.gov website is advised to cancel their plans,” she says. “Airlines have waived all penalties if you have booked a trip and have become pregnant before your travel dates and allow full refunds.”
Where do you recommend booking a honeymoon?
Margaret Kemp with Poe Travel suggests looking into Hawaii, Bermuda, Turks & Caicos, St. Kitts & Nevis, Cayman Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. “Simply, the Zika virus areas would not be recommended for obvious reasons,” Kemp says. “But again, having the woman talk to their doctor to determine what health condition they are in and how it relates to their travel – intensity of exercise for active destinations, access to medical needs, altitude, etc. Anything that could jeopardize their health would be important. Fortunately, the world offers many options for travel depending on their interests, health and budget.”
Zika-free Honeymoon Destinations
While St. Lucia and Fiji have tested positive for Zika, there are still plenty of beautiful beach locations for you to consider. Be sure to check the CDC’s website for the most up-to-date Zika information.
Places to go if you want an adults-only all-inclusive vacation experience:
All of the Bahamas
If you are looking for a tropical beach experience, check out:
Turks and Caicos
St. Kitts and Nevis
British Virgin Islands
If you are looking for a more adventurous but still tropical vacation experience, check out:
- The Cook Islands