You may have heard in recent weeks about the Zika virus which is affecting pregnant women and causing babies to be born with shrunken heads and brains. The virus has made headlines after the World Health Organisation predicted up to four million people could become infected by it.
Thousands of children have been infected by the virus in Brazil so far and it has now spread to over twenty countries including The Dominican Republic, Haiti and Barbados. It has spread relatively quickly as it is passed on by mosquitoes.
The virus currently has no cure and mosquito prevention (such as using DEET and covering up skin) is the only deterrent.
Anyone can be infected by the virus, and symptoms can include those similar to dengue fever (although milder) and include a mild fever, head ache, joint pain and a rash. It is not normally serious and some people will have no symptoms at all. However, when Zika infects pregnant mothers the infection causes foetus’ not to develop properly. It is thought that the children born with shrunken heads will have severe mental disabilities.
The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are also at much higher risk from the virus.
Whilst women can only travel for up to 24 weeks of their pregnancy on-board most cruise lines, travelling to countries on a cruise which are affected by this virus poses a risk.
The countries currently affected by the virus are: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana. Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela.
We spoke to the cruise lines this morning to find out exactly what this means for you and your future cruise if you are pregnant.
Royal Caribbean said: “If you’ve just paid a deposit with Royal Caribbean you can transfer to another cruise for a £75 admin fee. If you’ve paid your full balance you can cancel your cruise and get future cruise credit or else transfer to another cruise – but you will lose your deposit.”
Carnival Cruise Line told us that guests will be able to cancel or transfer to a different cruise free of charge if they were going to be travelling to South America, Caribbean or areas affected by the virus.
NCL said: “At this time, the only passengers that are advised not to travel to affected areas are expectant mothers and Norwegian Cruise Line have made accommodations for those guests to reschedule their cruise for a future date or change their itinerary to non-affected destinations. We are allowing pregnant guests and those travelling in the same stateroom to cancel without any further penalties and offering a Future Cruise Credit valid for 24 months for the value of the cruise. If affected guests wish to cancel & be issued with the cruise credit certificate they should contact us via our website.”
Holland America said that they will be looking into the matter on a case by case basis.
If travelling to South America or affected areas of the Caribbean and in doubt, it’s recommended that you ring your cruise line to check what options are available to you.
What do you think of the news? Are you concerned about travelling in the wake of the Zika virus? Will this affect your plans?
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