The weather is turning colder. Sweaters are starting to replace t-shirts and tank tops, boots are replacing sandals, and some of us are hoping to breathe a little easier about the whole Zika virus. The colder weather should be sending those pesky Aedes aegypti mosquitoes into hibernation for the winter, which should mean good news for pregnant women in particular. But what about people who are planning to head to the Caribbean in the upcoming colder months? Will the Zika virus survive in the Caribbean this winter? The news isn't exactly great, unfortunately.
The Zika virus has hit the southern hemisphere hard over the last six months, with the World Health Organization declaring the virus to be an international health emergency. The Zika virus has been linked to several serious congenital neurological birth defects like microcephaly and Guillan-Barre syndrome, both of which can cause a whole host of physical and emotional delays in children. It is passed through the blood stream by the bite of an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito and can also be transmitted sexually through the semen of an infected male. With the cold winter months ahead, many of the warmer states will be looking forward to the opportunity to perhaps get ahead of the virus while the mosquitoes lie dormant. But what of the tropical countries of the Caribbean?
The CDC has issued a travel advisory for most countries in the Caribbean, warning travelers to avoid many popular winter tourist areas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. These countries have all seen local transmissions of Zika and will remain dangerous for travelers, particularly women who are pregnant or could become pregnant, for the foreseeable future:
- French Guiana
- Trinidad & Tobago
- Saint Lucia
- Turks & Caicos
- Saint Martin
- Sint Maarten
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Antigua & Barbuda
- St. Barts
- St. Eustacius
While many people who have contracted the virus will only experience flu-like symptoms, the CDC continues to urge travelers to avoid the Caribbean to stem the spread of Zika.
As scientists continue to try to find a vaccine for Zika, the virus appears to be mutating, becoming more dangerous all the time. For instance, scientists have discovered at least one case of the virus potentially being transmitted simply by casual touch, and have noted that it can possibly cause damage to adult brains as well.
Will the threat of Zika keep tourists away from the Caribbean this winter? According to a report by The New York Times, every time the CDC issues a travel warning there are cancellations galore, but then a few weeks later interests peak again. Maybe some of us are willing to risk it if it means escaping the snow for a while this year.