Reasons NOT to Cancel Your Trip to Puerto Rico & Prevention Tips
by: Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC)
With its beautiful weather, laid–back culture and wide range of culinary experiences, Puerto Rico is the perfect place for travelers to escape the cold and experience a truly worry-free vacation. However, recent news regarding the spread of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico may have people thinking twice about traveling to Vieques and Puerto Rico.
Following are three reasons travelers should NOT cancel their plans to visit Puerto Rico:
1. Proper Preparation Can Ensure a Worry-Free Vacation
The key to worry-free travel is preparation…no matter what the destination. Puerto Rico, like many Caribbean islands, has an active mosquito population year-round, so mosquito protection is already a must for travelers any time of year. Right now, however, it’s even more important that travelers educate themselves about what they need to do to prevent mosquito bites.
The best thing travelers can do is follow the CDC guidelines for avoiding bug bites. Before the trip, travelers are encouraged to purchase—and pack in their checked baggage—repellant containing at least 20% DEET, picaridin, para-menthane-diol, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, which have been evaluated by the EPA for effectiveness. Remember! When applying sunscreen apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
2. Puerto Rico is prepared
From solo travelers to families of all sizes, Puerto Rico is taking the necessary preventive steps to protect all of its visitors and offer a truly worry-free experience. Hotels and other popular tourist destinations are actively spraying to eradicate mosquito populations and drastically reduce the likelihood of travelers contracting the Zika virus while traveling abroad.
Puerto Rico is the jurisdiction that is most prepared to handle this health situation.
3. The Zika Virus Has Had Minimal Impact on the Puerto Rican Population
So far, less than one half of one percent of our population has been affected and the Government is taking steps to protect our residents, and reassure visitors. So, with the right preparation, travelers can still enjoy a fun, relaxing trip to Puerto Rico.
While the virus has only affected a small percentage of the island, the CDC and WHO have advised pregnant women and couples planning on having children to avoid travel to areas with local Zika transmission, including many Caribbean islands and parts of central and southern America.
Puerto Rico is an island full of white sandy beaches, world class culinary offerings, beautiful rainforests and unparalleled cultural experiences. From business travelers, spring breakers and families, Puerto Rico offers a unique getaway destination for every type of traveler.
How to Prevent Mosquito Bites
- Look for EPA-approved mosquito repellents that contain active ingredients such as DEET or picaridin.
- Use repellents on exposed skin or clothing, reapplying as directed.
- If using suncreen: apply suncreen first, then mosquito repellent.
- When inside, keep screen doors and windows closed and turn on air conditioning.
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Avoid sweet-smelling perfume.
Zika Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated: April 18, 2016
How many cases of Zika have been reported in Puerto Rico?
- As of April 2016, 550 Zika virus cases have been confirmed in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which is less than one half of one percent of the population.
- To date, there are no cases of Zika reinfection.
- Currently outbreaks are occurring in multiple countries including popular destinations in Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and Latin America.
Is Puerto Rico prepared to manage / control the spread of Zika?
- Puerto Rico has much expertise in mosquito-borne illnesses.
- The government of P.R. is working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC team on the ground and the local Department of Health.
We are taking every possible precaution to combat the Zika virus including:
- Monitoring travel advisories from the World Health Organization
- Establishing a 3-1-1 telephone hotline and twitter account to enable reporting of high-risk areas
- Providing Zika safety tips for visitors and hotel guests
- Following the latest research on mosquito eradication and potential treatments
- Holding weekly, joint press conferences with our Secretary of Health to provide the latest Zika statistics and updates on our efforts to combat its spread
On the ground we are:
- Educating local medical personnel and healthcare facilities on identifying and caring for patients with the Zika virus
- Spraying public areas with mosquito repellant to prevent mosquito breeding grounds
Is it safe for tourists to travel to Puerto Rico?
- Yes. However, the CDC has issued a notice Alert 2 for various tourist destinations in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico.
- The P.R. Department of Health and the CDC have issued statements about the activities they are taking to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus.
- All health facilities are open and prepared to deal with any situation regarding possible patients including hospital, private practice offices, EMTs and ambulances.
- The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) together with the tourism industry have treated this matter responsibly by educating and also implementing preventive measures that contribute to minimize the impact on the tourism sector that may result from this new type of virus.
- It is important that visitors themselves take the appropriate precautions to avoid possible contagion and make of their stay a safer and more pleasant one.
- Worth noting that due to scientific evidence of a relation between microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies whose mothers were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant, the CDC recommends pregnant women to consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. This recommendation applies to pregnant women (in any trimester). If a pregnant woman must travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing, she should consult her doctor first and take preventive measures.
- We urge travelers to keep informed and check updated information on the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/Zika/ , http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/Zika-virus-caribbean calling the CDC hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or contacting the Puerto Rico Health Department at 787-765-6000.
- PRTC is currently posting and updating any alerts regarding travel to Puerto Rico on its corporate website http://puertoricotourism.pr.gov/dnn/.
I am considering a trip to Puerto Rico, should I be concerned about Zika?
- Puerto Rico has implemented a comprehensive program to protect its nearly four million residents and five million annual visitors. As a tropical island, Puerto Rico has significant experience in dealing with mosquitos and mosquito-borne illnesses.
- Zika cases in Puerto Rico today represent less than one half of one percent of the population; unless you are pregnant or plan to be pregnant we encourage everyone to visit whether travelling for business or for pleasure.
Is Puerto Rico open for Tourists?
- Yes, Puerto Rico’s many attractions, resort areas and tourist services are totally up and running. We are taking all the precautions to inform tourists about Zika safety measures to minimize contagious transmission risk.
- Services relevant to tourists are available including:
- National Parks
- Airport Staff and Maintenance
- Tour Guides
- Municipal Services
- Tourist Information Centers
- Emergency Services (hospital facilities, fire department, police, EMT)
- PRTC is constantly monitoring the situation and in constant communication with the Department of Health in order to keep the tourism industry properly informed about what is happening regarding the spread or update additional preventive measures requiring immediate implementation.
Have any airlines cancelled routes to Puerto Rico?
- No, however airlines including cruise lines and tour operators have announced cancellation and change policies. We advise that you contact your travel agent or carrier to learn more about their policies.
Should I cancel my trip to Puerto Rico?
- The World Health Organization has not restricted travel to Puerto Rico.
- Unless you are pregnant or plan to be pregnant, there is no reason to cancel travel plans to Puerto Rico. However, we advise you to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself against mosquito bites when traveling to any tropical country. For the latest CDC guidelines, (visit www.cdc.gov/Zika/).
What is the CDC Travel Alert?
- The CDC has issued alert level 2 travel notices for people travelling to regions and certain countries where there is a potential for Zika virus transmission. An alert level 2 is the mid-level alert where travelers are counseled to practice enhanced precautions to avoid getting sick.
- This alert contains information on how to reduce the possibility of transmission and its goals. It includes providing information to health care providers, public health officials, and the general public on how to prepare for the challenges this illness represents.
What can visitors do to prevent Zika during a visit to Puerto Rico?
- There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites in the following ways:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
- Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children aged >2 months.
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents).
- Stay and sleep in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms.
- Sexual transmission of Zika virus from a male partner is possible. If you have sex with a male partner while traveling, you should use condoms every time.
What are the Symptoms of Zika?
- Symptoms of the Zika virus are similar to the symptoms of regular flu. This may lead to confusion on whether a case is actually flu or common influenza. Only blood tests can confirm it is indeed the Zika virus.
- The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.
- The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- See your healthcare provider if you are pregnant and develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within two weeks after traveling to a place where Zika has been reported. Be sure to tell your health care provider where you traveled.
What measures can be taken after travel to Puerto Rico?
- All pregnant travelers should be tested for Zika virus infection. This includes both pregnant women with symptoms of Zika (rash, joint pain, or red eyes) and pregnant women with no symptoms.
- Avoid mosquito bites for 3 weeks.
- Men who have traveled to an area with ongoing Zika transmission should consider using condoms to protect their sexual partners.
- Men who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy.
What to do if I think have Zika?
- Seek medical attention immediately if you have a fever with a rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Tell him or her about your travel.
- Medicine such as acetaminophen can relieve fever and pain. Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
- As with other viruses, get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.
How long is the situation expected to last?
- Behavior, in terms of transmission in specific areas where Zika virus is active is not predictable, it is often difficult to determine and likely to change over time.
- We urge travelers to keep informed and check updated information on the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/Zika/index.html or contacting the Puerto Rico Health Department website, http://www.salud.gov.pr/Pages/Home.aspx
- Puerto Rico is doing everything in its power and has responded effectively to this threat and has taken steps to adequately address all aspects of this virus in aims to reduce risk of transmission.
Has tourism to Puerto Rico been impacted?
- There have been reports of some travel cancellations that may be due to the travel alerts. This issue could affect the tourism industry as travelers may become more cautious due to the CDC travel alert.
- We stress that all health services (hospital facilities, doctors, EMTs) are prepared to handle any suspected or confirmed case of Zika.
- Government agencies, private organizations, the tourism industry and civic groups are taking the necessary measures to handle and help prevent the spread of the Zika virus.
What is the expected impact on the perception of Puerto Rico Tourists based on this crisis?
- The outbreak of Zika is a health issue that affects many countries. Unfortunately tourists’ perceptions of travel and tourist destinations in general, will definitively be altered by the spread of this disease.
- The Government of Puerto Rico, The Department of Health, PRTC and our industry partners are taking all necessary measures to enable travelers to enjoy their visit our island.
- PRTC is constantly monitoring the situation and in communication with the Department of Health in order to keep the tourism industry properly informed about what is happening regarding the spread of the Zika virus and new on preventive measures requiring immediate implementation.
- PRTC is currently posting and updating any alerts regarding travel to Puerto Rico on its corporate website http://puertoricotourism.pr.gov/dnn/