Travel agencies report drop in clients booking vacations to Zika-prone areas

206 travel-related cases now reported in Florida

By Terrell Forney - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

MIAMI - Tuesday was another busy day inside the Jerry Allen Travel Agency in Aventura, but in recent weeks, some clients have had a sudden change of heart over their previously booked summer vacations.

"Most people that I book, they are changing their vacation toward places that don't have Zika," corporate travel agent Moises Wertheimer said.

The mosquito-borne illness is hitting parts of the Caribbean and South America especially hard.

So far, all of the 206 Zika cases reported in Florida have been contracted elsewhere, with the exception of at least one case that was transmitted sexually.

Still, the threat that the disease poses to pregnant women -- causing possible deformities in newborns -- is just too much of a risk for some travelers.

"Actually, I have somebody that was going to South America as a family because they have a wedding," Wertheimer said. "She didn't go, but the family went. She just stayed home in Miami because of Zika."

Mindy Hardoon of Jerry Allen Travel urges people to purchase insurance when they plan vacations to ensure that they get their money back if they cancel.

Hardoon, who manages the travel agency, said it's not just Zika that gives her travelers pause, but a turbulent election year in the U.S, not to mention some economic and political challenges in Venezuela caused by a volatile government.

"People have canceled a lot. Sales have gone down," Hardoon said.

Airfares to practically every destination around the globe have dipped to record levels, and the number of airline passengers is through the roof.

So it seems that people are being smart about where they choose to go.

"They'll look for other options, because if you want to go on a vacation, you're going to go," Wertheimer said.

The Florida Department of Health said symptoms of the Zika virus last between seven and 10 days.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus typically causes a mild rash, fever and joint pain. Only one in five people infected with the virus are symptomatic.

Below is a list of Florida counties with patients who have contracted the Zika virus in other countries.

Alachua County - 4 cases

Brevard County - 4 cases

Broward County - 27 cases

Clay County - 2 cases

Collier County - 2 cases

Duval County - 1 case

Escambia County - 1 case

Hillsborough County - 5 cases

Highlands County - 1 case

Lee County - 5 cases

Martin County - 1 case

Miami-Dade County - 59 cases

Orange County - 15 cases

Osceola County - 6 cases

Palm Beach County - 12 cases

Pasco County - 2 cases

Pinellas County - 6 cases

Polk County - 3 cases

Santa Rosa County - 1 case

Seminole County - 6 cases

St. Johns County - 2 cases

Volusia County - 2 cases

*Cases involving pregnant women - 39

 

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