The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects in Latin America and Caribbean countries, prompting the World Health Organization to call it a “public health emergency of international concern." There have also been reports of the mosquito-borne virus showing up in popular locations where U.S. college students spend spring break.
However, many college students aren't too concerned about the virus, which can be spread via mosquito and possibly sexual contact.
“I didn’t hear about the virus until after I purchased the tickets,” Virginia Tech senior Tassbieh Hassan told USA TODAY. “I got nervous at first because Zika was spreading to the places we are going, but after learning that it mainly affects newborns, I think I will be all right.”
Hassan and fellow senior Ariel Schnarrs bought tickets for a cruise that will stop in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I’m still extremely excited [about the trip],” Schnarrs added.
As a precaution, Schnarrs has packed some extra bug spray.
“Our plans [for Saint Martin] have not changed at all,” UVM senior Belle Procaccini stated. “We still plan to do outdoor activities everyday.”
“I’m not going to let it affect my trip, but I’ll be careful about what I do in Cancun,” Kyle Ferguson, a senior at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) added.
According to Ferguson, more than 500 students (including himself) from UNH are going to Cancun, Mexico.
“Students should do what they can to prevent getting bit by a mosquito or having a sexual encounter where they may be open to contracting the virus,” Jon Porter, health director at the University of Vermont, told the newspaper.
The Virginia Tech website warns: "All Virginia Tech community members are encouraged to take precautions against the spread of Zika prior to travel to areas in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America where Zika transmission is ongoing."
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention site lists countries and areas where the virus has been reported, and warns on each page: "There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika."
The countries and areas listed include: American Samoa, Aruba, Barbados, Bolivia, Bonaire, Brazil, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Tonga, Venezuela, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.