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CDC Advises Pregnant Women & Their Partners to Avoid Parts of Miami, Florida. . . What About Puerto Rico?

Am I the only one gobsmacked (a great word I learned in Ireland) by the CDC issuing warning for pregnant women and their partners, and those planning to be pregnant in the near future, to avoid parts of Miami, with the alert that the “parts” could spread to other parts, potentially, when there are 14 reported cases of Zika virus known to be acquired in  Miami, Florida as of August 17, 2016  while saying NOTHING about the 7,855 cases of Zika acquired in Puerto Rico between January 2015 and August 17, 2016?

Worse than that, I still haven’t gotten over the July 4, 2016 article on page 4 of Travel Weekly, a prestigious travel trade paper that boasted with words I interpret as a sense of pride and good sense, that a US radio broadcaster whose program focuses on travel broadcast live from Puerto Rico and, as the travel trade paper noted, “minced no words” during his live broadcast telling people that travel to Puerto Rico, which then had 2474 reported cases of locally acquired Zika virus, was safe and there was nothing to fear but fear itself.  I can’t be the only one who finds both the comments made in that live broadcast from Puerto Rico, which I am sure was meant to be an object lesson by proving it must be safe to be there or he wouldn’t be there, and worse that Travel Weekly immortalized those bold, and questionable statements, with their reporting of his comments.

Here are the facts:

So far, most people who have acquired Zika, transmitted by Zika-carrying mosquitoes, have very mild cases that often are thought to be bouts of fatigue by the infected person. Fevers are low grade and any accompanying aches and pains are often thought to be the result of overdoing.  In short, most people don’t even know they have it.

Some people, however, who have immune system challenges or other physical issues have been known to acquire the Zika virus and have it develop into Gillian Barre Syndrome which is an illness that mimics in adults the symptoms associated with polio in children.  Polio is a disease of childhood and it is now conjectured that Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was diagnosed with polio which resulted in his being in a wheel chair for much of his adult life, was misdiagnosed and that he actually had Gillian Barre Syndrome.  It makes me wonder if FDR was in a tropical destination prior to coming down with his illness while he was at his retreat, Campobello. I’ll have to do a bit of research on that curiosity and will let you know what I find out!

While you might be bitten by a Zika mosquito and have next-to-no symptoms, if you are pregnant, considering being pregnant, or are a man in a relationship with one or more women of child-bearing age, you need to be concerned about where you go because the results of a pregnant woman being bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito can be calamitous for the unborn child!  Worse than the risk of the mosquito bite itself, is the lingering risk of a woman being infected with the Zika virus even if she is never bitten by a mosquito but who has unprotected sex with a man who has been bitten and has the virus living inside him, transmittable through his semen, for as long as 2 to 6 months so the CDC advises use of a condom for six (6) months or abstinence.

One has to wonder why, when there are fourteen (14) reported cases of Zika in a couple of square miles of Florida that warnings are blaring why Puerto Rico’s 7,855 reported cases acquired in Puerto Rico were not mentioned today in the same story.  Also note that, since many people have such mild cases of Zika virus that they don’t even know they are sick or could transmit the disease to their partner (note that a case of a woman giving the illness to a man in the US occurred recently), the actual number of cases is surely, and logically, much larger because you won’t seek out medical care if you don’t feel ill and, therefore, the number of reported cases will not accurately reflect the number of actual cases.

One of the problems appears to be the Zika-carrying mosquito likes warm weather and when I hear the advice, “Take precautions,” it doesn’t compute well. Common advice is: use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and long pants.

So let me suggest this scenario for Miami or Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands in August, or any other month as they are all warm weather destinations:

You go to these places. How comfortable will you be wearing long sleeves and long pants?

You chose those destinations because you want to go swimming and enjoy the beaches and poolsides. You put on your bathing suits. To protect yourselves, you lather up with insect repellent. You go in the water. The insect repellent washes off or, in the least, its value is diminished as it becomes diluted and washes off your skin.

You’ve had enough of the water and want to return to your beach chair.  .  . in  your bathing suit and devoid of insect repellent protection that has run off your body.

You race to your beach chair, rummage through your beach bag to quickly find your insect repellent, and lather up.

But here’s the question that I find similar to my Zika virus question:

“If you’re only driving 4 blocks from your house to the grocery store, do you really have to put your seat belt on?” which suggests the follow-up question, “How many blocks do you need to drive before you have an accident?”

So here’s my Zika question for those emerging from the water headed to their beach chairs to find their insect repellent:

Can you make it from the water to your beach chair and get yourself lathered up before a mosquito has lunch on your body?  How many “safe” seconds do you have in that window of time between the water and the reapplication of a repellent with DEET in it which is the recommended repellent I was told but isn’t that one of those “unsafe” ingredients?

So the final question is, if you are heading into an area where there is Zika actively being acquired by people from mosquitoes or from their infected partners, can you really protect yourself from being bitten?  I just don’t see how! It seems to me that the CDC came out today with the first firm warning related to portions of Dade County, Florida but, people, you really need to think for yourself.  Read, listen, learn about what is going on, go to www.cdc.gov and click on “Zika” where you’ll find the updated list of where Zika is actively being acquired  and don’t believe everything you hear because you never know who is saying something with an underlying hidden agenda that may be in their own best interest and not in the best interest of the people they are talking to. (Politicians do that all the time!)  Happily, Florida seems to be the only US state where the Zika virus is active  so if you want a vacation that doesn’t require a passport, choose a US state where no Zika is actively being acquired from mosquitoes. You have 49 states to choose from at the moment.

--Gotta Fly Now!sm
Your Personal Travel Expert
Nationally syndiated radio show host
Stephanie Abrams

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