Those in Puerto Rico’s tourism industry have a pointed message: With the right precautions, tourists don’t have to fear Zika.
And many don’t.
That was the refrain repeated often in the Old San Juan area of the city, a popular stop for people on excursions from cruise ships making port-of-calls to the island.
Serenity Lynch, a 21-year-old tourist visiting from West Virginia, said she “didn’t even think about Zika” during her one-day stop in Puerto Rico while on a Carnival cruise earlier this month.
Puerto Ricans working in the island’s tourism industry insisted the impact of the disease in Puerto Rico is overblown.
“If you ask any person (in Puerto Rico) … they’ll tell you they have never met anyone with Zika,” Damaris Garcia, reservation manager for a tour boat in Old San Juan, said.
When asked whether Zika had caused her to second-guess taking a cruise to San Juan, Lana Haecherl quickly answered: “Hell no.”
As the 50-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, put it, “my baby days are over.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, however, that women who are pregnant not travel to Puerto Rico. The virus is believed to cause to birth defects, in particular, microcephaly, which causes an abnormally small head and a lack of brain development.
The common refrain among many in the tourism industry and on the island is that a little bit of common sense, and a lot of bug spray, go a long way.
“It’s preventing the mosquito bites,” Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, executive director of Puerto Rico Tourism Company, said about how to combat Zika. She added that the government and private sector have taken steps to eliminate mosquito breeding areas, as well.