Just when you thought it might be possible to travel to Cuba soon, the Centers for Disease Control's Zika travel warning might get in the way of your bucket list travel plans. In a show of how serious the CDC is taking the spread of the virus, the warning came after just one local case was confirmed last week on Tuesday. A 21-year-old Havana woman was diagnosed with the Zika virus after not even traveling outside of the country. Cuba was currently not on the list of countries because the only other cases came from people who had traveled abroad, but it looks like Zika has made it to the island — just ahead of President Obama's visit to the country, no less.
The travel ban is of special importance for pregnant women because the virus is can cause very serious birth defects in fetuses at all stages, including microcephaly and Guillain-Barre, which causes temporary paralysis. Other risks of Zika include premature birth and miscarriage. For American citizens, travel to Cuba is still banned entirely, but commercial airlines were planning on opening up flights to Cuba this coming fall. President Obama is planning a three-day trip this week, but officials say that the travel warning for Zika isn't expected to change his plans.
Although the Havana woman is still hospitalized and awaiting further testing, the virus is not known to be especially deadly. Symptoms of Zika include a fever, rash, and joint pain among other seemingly harmless symptoms. After a week or so, the virus is usually out of the system, but the risk of birth defects among pregnant women is very serious. The CDC recommends that any pregnant woman be tested within two-12 weeks after traveling to any country, including Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, or Puerto Rico, and now Cuba.
The CDC also recommends that any pregnant woman who has traveled to one of those countries should be monitored consistently, even if they have first tested negative for the virus. The CDC has also added that health professionals, "discuss pregnancy intention and reproductive options with women of reproductive age," with women who reside in Zika-infected countries or plan on traveling to them.
Zika continues to be an ongoing problem in South America and Latin American countries, and is of even greater concern because Brazil is set to host the upcoming 2016 Olympics. As for now, the only way to stay safe is to take measures to prevent mosquito bites or just stay put. By the time Americans can travel to Cuba within the next few years, it will have hopefully been eradicated.