UK health officials have advised pregnant women to postpone or cancel trips to Florida following the first domestic outbreak of the Zika virus in the state. Four new cases of Zika in Miami announced over the past weekend appeared to be the first caught from mosquitoes in the US, rather than from overseas travel. (On Aug. 1, a day after the UK announcement, the Florida Department of Health issued a travel warning for Wynwood section of Miami where, according to updated information, local mosquitoes had spread the virus to 14 people).
Officially, Public Health England updated the risk level in Florida to “moderate” and the Government’s National Travel Health Network and Centre advised pregnant women in England to consider postponing non-essential trips to Florida. UK residents were also advised to use condoms and not to have unprotected sex during on trips to Florida and for eight weeks afterwards, even if they show no symptoms.
As a result of the health warnings, Thomas Cook, Thomson, First Choice and British Airways are allowing pregnant women who have booked trips to Florida to change their destination for free. Virgin Holidays has said it will give full refunds.
In mid-April of this year, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed that Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. That’s because when a mom-to-be becomes infected with Zika virus, the virus can also infect the fetus. Microcephaly is a neurological condition where babies are born with small heads and sometimes small brains. The condition may also be associated with severe developmental issues and in rare instances death.
The UK is Florida’s top overseas source market. It sent 1.7 million visitors to the state last year.