Nothing can dampen your spirits more than finding out you’re sick while on vacation! Find out what Caribbean islands are zika-free!
If you’ve read any news articles related to the Caribbean in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of Zika. Originating from Africa, this mosquito-borne virus popped up in the Caribbean, the Americas, and the Pacific a few years ago. Could you be at risk for coming down with this virus while on vacation? Are any Caribbean countries completely zika-free? Find out below.
What is zika?
Zika is a virus that spreads to humans through mosquito bites. Specifically, the aedes mosquito carries it. This is the same type of insect that spreads dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. It can also spread through unprotected sex.
In most cases, zika causes no symptoms at all. However, some people might experience a rash, fever, headache, joint pain, or red eyes after the virus has entered the body. If you experience no symptoms, you won’t know you’ve been infected, and you could potentially transmit the virus to someone else. Blood or urine testing can show you whether you have the virus.
While zika isn’t an extremely dangerous virus, it can cause serious problems for pregnant women and their babies. That’s why it’s especially important for those who are pregnant to protect themselves from this disease. Zika can cause microcephaly in babies, a birth defect in which a child’s head is too small. This may mean that the baby’s brain cannot develop fully, which in turn may cause physical and learning disabilities. In addition, the virus can cause other problems, like hearing loss and eye issues.
Currently, there is no vaccine for zika. Symptoms may be treated with medicine such as painkillers.
What Caribbean islands are zika- free?
If you’re planning on traveling to the Caribbean while pregnant, it’s a good idea to protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses as much as possible. Part of that prevention can include picking a vacation destination in which zika won’t pose a threat.
Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website periodically for updates about which countries pose no risk for a zika infection, and which do. This site includes a zika travel recommendation map. Currently, there are no zika outbreaks in the Caribbean. In addition, the CDC has cleared the following countries for low zika risk:
This underrated Caribbean island may not have been on your radar until now, but it’s worth the trip! With gorgeous, lush rainforests and tranquil beaches, Martinique has all the things you’re coming to the Caribbean to find. We recommend taking advantage of the ample diving and snorkeling opportunities while you’re there, as well as the delicious Creole cuisine.
This butterfly-shaped archipelago is a French overseas territory in the southern Caribbean Sea. Although it’s one of the lesser-known Caribbean islands, there’s plenty to see and do there. There are waterfalls, gorgeous green jungles, and plenty of deserted white and golden-sand beaches.
Guadeloupe offers a wide variety of exotic activities that you may not have expected, and all for a lower price than its more popular neighbors. You can view both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from the peninsula Pointe des Châteaux on the island’s eastern coast, and explore the mysterious grotto “Trou de Madame Coco” that was supposedly once the home of a famous witch.
The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands is a British overseas territory composed of three islands in the western Caribbean Sea. Currently, these islands have no zika outbreaks. Known for amazing snorkeling and scuba diving sites, this country has diverse wildlife and colorful fish and coral. In addition, the beaches of the Cayman Islands stand out for their white sand and crystal-clear waters.
Posh St. Barts is known for playing host to the rich and famous. It’s now also known as one of the Caribbean islands that are zika-free. Also called St. Barthelemy or St. Barths, this small island has about 20 delightful “bare” beaches (meaning, devoid of resorts, buildings and other eyesores). Some of these beaches are extremely secluded, and even hard to reach. This makes them even more wonderful– you’ll have the sand and waves all to yourself!
Beyond beaches, St. Barts is also home to some interesting historic sites. These include the Wall House museum, the St.Barth Municipal Museum, and the Swedish Clock Tower in Gustavia.
This famous location is now also cleared of zika, according to the CDC. A popular Caribbean cruise-ship stop, the Bahamas is known for its amazing beaches, gorgeous landscapes, and laid-back vibe. There are plenty of seaside resorts and villas to stay in. Some of the best beaches are: Harbour Island, with its unique pink sand, Cabbage Beach in Nassau, where you’ll find starfish, flounder, and mini crabs, and Cat Island, a beach with underground caverns at Mermaid Hole.
The Bahamas is also the location of a sprinkling of pig-ridden beaches. Far from being a detriment, these hogs are beloved by locals and tourists alike.
How to prevent zika
Of course, prevention is key when it comes to zika. Here’s what the CDC suggests travelers to the Caribbean (especially pregnant women) do to prevent accidental transmission:
- Use a bed net. If you’re going to sleep in a tent outdoors, in a wooded area, or in a room that’s not well air-conditioned, place a mosquito net around your bed. Remember, mosquitoes can live indoors.
- Use insect repellent. It should be EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Spray the repellent on your clothing, not under it. Follow all directions on the bottle, and apply repellent after sunscreen. If used as directed, these repellents are safe for pregnant/breastfeeding women.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants, especially in forested areas.
- Use permethrin spray on your clothing and gear. Follow the directions on the bottle, and don’t spray it on your skin.
- Use condoms if engaging in sexual intercourse.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give medical advice. Before traveling to any Caribbean country while pregnant, speak with your doctor.
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