It's not uncommon for a bride to be or become pregnant on her honeymoon, or for a couple to plan a last childfree trip to the tropics while they're expecting. Now, depending on where a woman and her partner choose to go, the possibility of contracting the Zika virus may be a factor in those plans. The outbreak hit the Americas in 2015, peaked in 2016, and the number of reported cases have declined in each succeeding year.
What is the Zika Virus?
Transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, most people infected by the Zika virus show mild or no symptoms. The cause for concern is that doctors and scientists believe that a bite from this mosquito can lead to serious birth defects in children born to pregnant women who have been bitten.
Where has the Zika Virus Occurred?
At its peak, the Zika virus was found in multiple tropical countries. Cases were reported in the following popular vacation destinations:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Mexico (Chiapas, Nuevo Leon, and Jalisco states)
- Puerto Rico
- St. Barts
- St. Lucia
- St. Maarten/St. Martin
- Saint Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
- Turks & Caicos
- U.S. Virgin Islands
Outbreaks of Zika also were previously reported in Africa and islands in the Pacific. Previously it was reported in the United States, with Miami, Florida registering the most cases. However, "In 2018 and 2019, no local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in the continental United States," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Can the Zika Virus be Avoided?
Currently there is no commercially available test for Zika virus, preventative drug, vaccine or treatment.
What Do the Experts Advise?
According to the CDC:
"Until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctors or other healthcare providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare providers before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip."
According to About.com's Caribbean Expert:
"Should you postpone your Caribbean vacation over fears of Zika? If you're pregnant, the answer could be yes. If you're not, probably not: symptoms of the disease are relatively mild, especially compared to other tropical diseases, and Zika remains relatively rare in the Caribbean."
According to About.com's Mexico Expert:
"The number of Zika cases in Mexico and elsewhere has decreased greatly in the past few years, and it is generally not a major concern for most travelers, however, women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and their partners should take special care."
- Don't panic and rush to cancel a honeymoon in a hot spot if you are not pregnant and practice safe birth control.
- Pack mosquito repellent and use it consistently and according to directions. Bull Frog Mosquito Coast combines a DEET-free repellant that works up to 8 hours with SPF 30 sunblock in a spray that has a pleasant fragrance.
- If you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant during your honeymoon, consider visiting the USA, Canada, Europe and other northern regions where no outbreaks have been reported.
- If you are pregnant and become infected by the Zika virus, a safe and legal abortion in the United States is an option. In many of the countries where the virus is prevalent, abortion is banned.
- In no rush to take a honeymoon? Wait until news of a Zika virus vaccine is reported and becomes widely available, and then travel where your heart desires.
Where to Find Out More About the Zika Virus
Learn more from these reputable sources:
- CDC Data & Statistics on Zika and Pregnancy
- The New York Times
- National Institutes of Health
- Pan-American Health Organization