The Zika virus has been exploding in the news lately, and has caused panic among Americans. The relatively new virus and its potential side effects are causing quite a stir. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, has been linked with an increased risk in microcephaly in newborn babies. For that reason, the CDC has recommended that pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, steer clear of areas where Zika is common.
What about those who are not pregnant? Should they stay away from anywhere Zika can be caught? The CDC has recommended that all travelers protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long clothing and using bug spray (which anyone who has been around mosquitoes knows is not 100% effective). However, it hasn’t issued any other sort of travel recommendation or widespread ban. CNN reported that a group of MLB players seem concerned about Zika, concerned enough that they complained to the players’ union and succeeded in getting the two game series moved from Puerto Rico to Miami. It would have been the first time they had played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium since 2010. It also would have coincided with Roberto Clemente day, a celebration the MLB holds annually to celebrate the Puerto Rican native ball player. Now it looks like the celebration will have to wait, possibly until September.
Many in Puerto Rico were disappointed by the change and the loss of revenue the games would have provided the country, which has been struggling with a massive debt of 70 billion dollars. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla expressed his disappointment toward the decision, saying that only those who are pregnant need to worry about Zika, and that the players, who he dubbed ‘not very smart’ had more of a chance of catching Zika in Miami than they do in Puerto Rico. Zika has been identified in Miami since April of this year, but isn’t as widespread as in Puerto Rico, where over 1,100 cases have been confirmed. In February of this year an elderly man in Puerto Rico died from complications related to Zika. There is also some evidence that Zika can be spread through sexual intercourse which may also be a factor in men and non-pregnant women’s hesitation to visit Puerto Rico.
Tourism in general has been struggling in Puerto Rico since the Zika virus hit the scene. Likely because most people don’t love the idea of going on vacation and picking up a virus that carries the potential for rashes, fever, muscle and joint pain, and conjunctivitis (WHO). Not only that, but Zika, while it doesn’t pass from person to person, does pass from person to mosquito, and mosquito to person. So there is the potential of bringing Zika home and having it spread. That’s not exactly what your neighbors had in mind when you said you’d bring them a souvenir. The bottom line is that there is a lot we don’t know about Zika and therefore there is a lot of fear surrounding it.