Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Zika threat sparks travel plan rethink

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The Asian Tiger Mosquito can transmit Zika. Photo/file
The Asian Tiger Mosquito can transmit Zika. Photo/file

Bay residents are changing their travel plans after an outbreak of the Zika virus.

In Brazil, the virus has been linked with an increase in reported cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads. The mosquito that carries the virus is also found in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

The Ministry of Health said on January 26 it had received nine notifications of the Zika virus this year.

All of the travellers had been in the Pacific Islands and eight of them had recovered.

A 47-year-old man was in Waikato Hospital.

Trudy Talbot cancelled a trip to Fiji when she heard about the Zika outbreak.

Because it's so close to Samoa and Tonga, I decided it wasn't worth the risk.
Trudy Talbot

Although Zika has not been found in Fiji, Ms Talbot did not want to risk travelling to the Pacific Islands as she was pregnant.

"I booked the trip to Fiji for my cousin's wedding and about a week later, the Zika story broke.

"I decided to get some advice about whether I should go or not because I'm pregnant.

"I talked to a nurse who got advice from a travel doctor, he said cover yourself in repellent and don't get bitten. There seemed to be no effective information out there about it.

"Because it's so close to Samoa and Tonga, I decided it wasn't worth the risk."

Ms Talbot said she was able to rebook her holiday, but as she is having another baby, was not able to commit to a different date. She cancelled the trip and instead will take a holiday in Sydney.

"Now that more information has come out about it, I've got no regrets about my decision not to go."

United Travel in the City manager Maree Webb said some travellers had changed their travel plans because they were pregnant or thinking about having a family, but the number was not large.

Most of these were people planning on travelling to the Pacific Islands.

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Mrs Webb said the virus was likely to impact the plans of those travelling to Brazil for the Olympics later this year, although she had not come across anyone doing so.

Flight Centre NZ general manager retail Sue Matson said the company had one customer cancel their travel plans due to concerns about the Zika virus.

They were due to be travelling to Samoa.

"Any Flight Centre customers due to be travelling to any of the affected countries that wish to discuss alternative travel plans should contact their Flight Centre travel expert as soon as possible to discuss their options."

Ms Matson said anyone concerned about travel should speak to a medical expert and check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Safe Travel website to make an informed choice.

"Some airlines, tour operators and cruise lines are offering concerned customers the option to change, cancel or defer their travel arrangements if they or their travelling companion is pregnant.

"Any Flight Centre customers who wish to discuss this further should speak with their travel expert as soon as possible."

The Safe Travel website's information about Zika virus said there was ongoing concern about the spread of the virus and its impact on pregnant women and their babies.

"There are also concerns that Zika infection can, in rare instances, lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious immune system disorder," it read.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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