The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is suggesting that pregnant women and their partners postpone trips to Miami-Dade County after five people, three of them tourists, were diagnosed with Zika that was transmitted from mosquitos in Miami Beach, the second reported area in the United States where transmissions have occurred. At least fourteen people have contracted the virus from mosquitos in Miami’s Wynwood area, prompting the C.D.C to issue its first call for pregnant women to steer clear of a section in Miami. Here is what travelers need to know if they are in Miami or plan to travel there.
Is it safe to travel to Miami?
In general, yes, said Dr. Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, although pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant in the near future may want to avoid visiting. “Miami is definitely a city in a subtropical climate, and it has plenty of mosquitoes year-around so there is always a chance of getting bitten,” he said.
Will airlines let you change or cancel your flight?
Some carriers will.
Delta Air Lines has been dealing with customers who want to make changes or cancel their reservations on flights to areas affected by Zika since February, said Morgan Durrant, a spokesman. “Refunds are and have been available,” he said in an email. “Customers are asked to call and speak to a Delta reservation sales specialist to discuss.”
JetBlue is also working with travelers scheduled to fly to Miami. The airline’s policy states: “Customers traveling to/from destinations reported by the C.D.C. to be affected by the Zika virus may qualify for a refund or the option to make changes to their current travel plans to alternate destinations or travel dates.”
But American Airlines isn’t offering refunds yet. “Miami Beach is not all of Miami,” said Ross Feinstein, the carrier’s spokesman. Earlier, when the Wynwood cases were diagnosed, Mr. Feinstein also said that there would be no refunds. “The C.D.C. is not telling people not to travel to Miami,” he said. “They are saying that pregnant women should avoid the Wynwood area of Miami so we don’t see the need to offer refunds.”
Will hotels let you cancel your stay if you paid a non-refundable rate?
Right now, it’s too soon to say. Hotels don’t seem to have implemented formal cancellation policies yet.
Are hotels in Miami taking any precautions to protect their guests from contracting Zika?
Some hotels have ramped up their pest control in the last few weeks and are placing bottles of mosquito repellent in key areas throughout their properties, such as at their pools, for guests to use.
Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, a luxury Miami Beach property in Sunny Isles, increased its mosquito protection when Zika hit the Caribbean earlier this year, said Deborah Yager Fleming, its chief executive. “Currently, we have an active, weekly mosquito elimination program in place and have added DEET-based mosquito repellents for guests’ use,” she said.
Mandarin Oriental, Miami has implemented additional health and safety standards since Zika hit Miami, according to Alexandra Wensley, a spokeswoman. Also, the hotel is providing guests with mosquito spray at its Peruvian restaurant, La Mar, which has outdoor terraces, as well as at its poolside cafe.
Will there be deals out there for travelers who want to visit Miami?
The first C.D.C. advisory, about Wynwood, seems to have had little impact on price. Data from STR, a Hendersonville, Tenn.-based analytics company specializing in hotels, shows that a year ago, the average room rate per night at a hotel in the city was a $150; today it’s also $150.
But data from Expedia.com suggests that hotels are offering savings on packages, a strong indicator that hotels are giving great discounts, according to its spokeswoman, Sarah Gavin. On Expedia.com, travelers can save 17 percent more on a package since August than they could on package savings June through July; also, travelers can save 27 percent more on packages this August versus last summer.
So while there are not necessarily deals, perhaps rates are holding steady when they would otherwise increase.
Has hotel occupancy decreased in Miami since Zika was first reported in the city in July?
Only marginally, but it’s not because of Zika, said Jan Freitag, a senior vice president at STR. According to STR’s data, for the week ending Aug. 13, hotel occupancy in Miami — a city with around 53,000 hotel rooms — was down 3.6 percent to 76 percent, compared to the same week last year. But there are more hotel rooms in the city than there were a year ago so the decline was likely caused by increased inventory rather than a drop in travelers. “Zika has, thus far, not impacted travel to Miami,” he said. In other words, don’t expect a quieter stay.
What can we do to minimize the chance of contracting Zika?
The single best way to protect yourself is to use mosquito repellent. Each brand has different directions for frequency of application, but Dr. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiology professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, recommended doubling that use. If your bottle suggests reapplying every four hours, for example, you should reapply every two hours. “If you’re outside in a warm climate, the repellent will evaporate faster because you’re likely perspiring,” he said.
Also, if you’re in a room that doesn’t have air-conditioning, he says that using a window, standing or table fan keeps mosquitoes at bay because the insects don’t have wings strong enough to fly against the current of the fan.
What should you do if you’re in Miami and have been bitten by a mosquito?
Don’t panic, Dr. Morse said. “There is such a low probability that the mosquito is carrying the virus,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely, at this time, that you’re going get Zika.”
How would you know if you’ve contracted Zika?
You may have a rash, mild flulike symptoms, a fever, a headache or severe joint pain. These usually appear within a week or 10 days of having been bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus. Only about 20 percent of people infected with the Zika virus become ill, according to the C.D.C.