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U.S. Travelers Seek More Zika Details

Most intend to stick with their plans -- while packing bug repellent, survey finds

THURSDAY, Feb. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The Zika virus outbreak isn't stopping Americans from visiting other countries, but many travelers want more information about the virus, a new survey finds.

The online survey of 300 U.S. citizens who made international trips in the past five years found that about one-quarter of them planned to travel to other countries within three months.

More than 90 percent of those with such plans said they will keep them, and 44 percent said they would take extra precautions to protect themselves from the Zika virus.

The mosquito-borne virus is suspected of causing birth defects in Brazil. Zika virus has also been linked to a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Zika is currently active in roughly 30 countries/territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women to postpone travel to those areas. The CDC also recommends that travelers to Zika-active regions protect themselves from mosquito bites.

On Thursday, the CDC added two more Caribbean islands to the places where the Zika virus has taken hold -- Aruba and Bonaire, off Venezuela's coast.

More than 70 percent of the survey respondents thought they should use insect repellent to protect themselves, but less than 55 percent believed insecticide-treated clothing provided effective protection.

More than half of respondents said they did not have sufficient knowledge about the Zika virus. The most popular choice for trusted information was the CDC (more than 50 percent), followed by resources at the travel destination, the survey found.

The survey results show the need for Zika-affected locations to provide visitors with more detailed information about the risks and what to do if they become ill, said Lori Pennington-Gray, director of the University of Florida's Tourism Crisis Management Initiative, which conducted the study.

Such information could help prevent the spread of the disease in the United States, she added.

"The newness of this disease could have a tremendous impact on destinations, particularly if tourists engage in a lot of outdoor activities when mosquitoes are at their peak," Pennington-Gray said in a university news release.

"This rise in cases is also having an effect on planning and managing for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," she said.

Ashley Schroeder, managing director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative, suggested that officials in each travel destination provide travelers with geographically specific information so they can make educated decisions.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Zika virus.

To see the CDC list of sites where Zika virus is active and may pose a threat to pregnant women, click here.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, Feb. 16, 2016

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