This week, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus, linked to birth defects in Brazil, to be a “public health emergency of international concern.” And with word that Spain has confirmed their first diagnosed case, travelers the world over are concerned about their safety… something that the cruise lines serving foreign ports are taking extremely seriously.
In a statement released recently, for example, Royal Caribbean confirmed that they are “committed to the safety and health of our guests” and monitoring the situation. With the Center for Disease Control having issued a travel alert for several countries, the line is also offering to “assist any pregnant women who do not feel comfortable sailing” to impacted countries by “providing alternate itinerary options.” They go on to say that customers wishing to postpone their trip will be provided “with a future cruise credit valid for two years so that they may reschedule… with no penalty.”
Norwegian Cruise Lines is also working to “make accommodations for those very few affected guests to reschedule their cruise for a future date in the next two years or change their itinerary to non-affected designations.” Carnival, too, is offering pregnant women the option of changing their itineraries or postponing or even cancelling their cruise.
How Dangerous Is The Virus?
The CDC is currently advising that “women who are pregnant (in any trimester) consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing,” adding that “if you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.” They also advice women who are trying to become pregnant to “talk to your doctor about your plans to become pregnant and the risk” of infection.
The good news is that for folks who are not pregnant, the virus is little more than a nuisance, with the most common symptoms being fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (which is basically pink eye). The CDC reports that “the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.” And the most comforting news of all? “Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.”
For more on the Zika virus — including impacted areas preventing, and information for pregnant woman — head to the CDC’s site. And for information about how a particular sailing is impacted, either contact the cruise line directly or your travel professional.
Image: Flikr/Trevor Ogle