WTTC quells travel concerns over Zika virus
The World Travel & Tourism Council has sought to reassure travellers no movement restrictions are currently in place following the spread of the Zika virus.
The announcement follows a decision by the World Health Organisation to brand the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.
In a statement the international tourism body said: “WTTC advises travellers to follow the health and travel advisories issued by the authorities and to take appropriate precautions to avoid getting bitten by the Aedes mosquito when travelling to places with a high-risk of infection.
“These are normal anti mosquito protection procedures, using insect repellent, avoiding places with standing water and covering up where possible.
The WTTC added: “The WHO declaration requires an international response, to attack the problem at source, to minimize the threat in infected countries and to reduce risk of international spread.
“Governments must ensure that they communicate clearly on the development of the Zika virus in their countries and on the preventative measures necessary to stop people from getting infected.
Uncertainty remains over the virus, though experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected.
However, this has not been scientifically proven.
The rapid spread of the virus across South American, particularly Brazil, has been a matter of concern for the WTO.
The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern.
The WHO stated that, at present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.
The WTTC concluded: “It is too early to comment on the impact of the Zika virus to the tourism sector.
“Tourism boards, health organisations and companies across the sector are working together on formulating an appropriate response in every country impacted.
Most airlines, cruise lines and tour operators from originating countries are being flexible, by offering alternative plans or refunds to pregnant women and their families who prefer not to travel to affected areas at this time.