As the headlines and airwaves are filled with stories about the Zika virus, from warnings to actual incidences and issued travel advisories, many people from around the world have canceled their vacation plans to affected countries such as South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Troy and I are currently living in one of the countries on the travel advisory: Colombia. Our friends in the tour business here mentioned that virtually overnight, close to 40% of their tours were canceled since the Zika virus news hit the media. I am sure there are questions in the minds of some of those perspective travelers such as: “What if I get sick?”
Of course,no virus should be treated lightly, however:
Fear is that primitive instinct in most of us that make us tick. It helps us survive because we remember a bad experience, so we will endeavor to avoid it in the future. Thanks also to adrenaline that is released into our bodies, it gives us the physical sensation of feeling excitement, fear or anger. Therefore, the emotions are felt during any awkward moment we, as humans, experience.
Sadly, media perpetuates fear because negative stories are newsworthy and fear sells. It results in more viewership and higher ratings on TV, radio, and social media. All these things translate to more advertising dollars for media outlets, thus, higher profits.
Troy and I also lived through another travel warning in Toronto during the 2003 – the SARS outbreak. SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is caused by a virus that leads to an upper respiratory illness. When the travel advisory was issued, the tourism industry in Toronto suffered a $350million dollar loss and a loss of equal rate in retail sales. SARS was no doubt a terrible illness that led to 44 deaths and hundreds of others ill in Canada, however, news broadcasts and videos of Toronto at that time portrayed Toronto as a city dealing with an epidemic, a city out of control.
The media fixated on the few residents walking down streets wearing masks to protect themselves. It perplexed Troy and me, to see news scenes like this, where in fact it was localized to hospitals and households in contact with patients. Meanwhile, the majority of the 5+ million inhabitants in the Toronto area were living very normal regular lives.
The Zika virus advisory is an interesting one. The CDC (The Center for Disease Control) has labeled the situation as an alert to “practice enhanced precautions.” This means people should take precautions like using insect repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants and using mosquito nets. In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada mentioned “taking special health precautions while traveling in affected countries and pregnant woman should discuss travel plans with a health care provider or consider postponing.” It’s been stated that pregnant women are the ones who are most at risk of this virus and not the rest of the world’s population. Does this mean travelers should cancel their plans, or just exercise caution?
Interestingly, dengue fever is a viral disease that is also transmitted by mosquitos and has been a problem in various parts of the world with far worse effects. So why does this virus not get the same publicity as Zika? It is because Zika is a new, shiny toy to the media. The Zika virus is novel and newsworthy.
It’s better to do your research, talk to travelers (travel bloggers are great for this) and read travel advisories with a rational approach. After that, are the risks enough to cancel your plans or are you just afraid?
What about looking at the situation with the benefits instead of the risks. Would you want to avoid missing out on an incredible life changing travel experience because you are only exercising caution?
For more details about the Zika virus and how you can reduce the risks all the answers are included here.
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com