Pregnant women questioning travel plans, pushing airlines for refunds over Zika virus
Published Friday, January 29, 2016 5:18PM EST Last Updated Friday, January 29, 2016 6:49PM EST
There are new developments in the fast-moving Zika virus that has health officials across the hemisphere on alert. There are now four Canadian cases and new warnings for travelers concerned about contracting the virus.
Quebec’s public health agency released information about a Quebec resident who had recently traveled to an affected area. The woman recovered quickly and is now back at work. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends any pregnant woman who is planning to travel, to talk to her doctor first.
And airlines are changing their policies to give refunds to travelers who want to cancel. The World Health Organization says the virus has spread "explosively" and is now reported in a total of 23 countries.
For one couple, originally from Ottawa but now living in Niagara Falls, having a baby is supposed to be an exciting experience. So is a sun vacation. But concern over traveling south prompted them to fight for a refund from their airline. They finally got their money back; the trip is cancelled.
It was going to be a romantic getaway for Martin and Stephanie LeMay, leaving on Valentine's Day just a few months before Stephanie was to give birth.
“It would have been nice to have a vacation,” says Stephanie.
LeMay is 6 months pregnant and due to travel with her husband to the Bahamas in a couple weeks.
But fear over the mosquito-carrying Zika virus prompted the couple to ask Sunwing for their money back even though the virus hasn't hit the Bahamas yet.
“My husband and I decided it wasn't worth taking a risk,” says Stephanie.
They say their request for a refund didn't go very well.
Martin LeMay says, “The people at customer service didn’t' seem to care and she even laughed and said how do we even now you’re pregnant?”
But late this afternoon, Jacqueline Grossman, the Senior Director of Marketing with Sunwing Vacations said Sunwing has “since modified its policy and is now allowing customers to make changes to their travel plans for no additional fees or cancel their trip for a full refund, provided they have a doctor's note.” Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada updated Canadians on the virus, including information on those four cases; two in BC, one in Alberta and now one in Quebec.
“All (the cases) were resulting from travel to an area where the virus is circulating,” said Dr. Gregory Taylor, the Chief Public Health Officer for Canada.
The virus is now circulating in 23 countries and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.
“We need to reassure Canadians that the risk in Canada is very, very low,” Dr. Taylor added.
The Zika virus is believed to be linked to severe birth defects. So, the advice to pregnant women and women who may be trying to conceive is to postpone travel to those areas.
And so for women, like Tara-Lynn Cameron of Ottawa, who is pregnant with her first baby, her upcoming trip to Cuba is disconcerting. Cameron spoke with her doctor and purchased cancellation insurance for her Sunwing vacation prior to the Zika virus outbreak.
“It’s scary,” says Cameron, “I've been to Cuba two years ago and there are a lot of mosquitoes so even if it's not there, if you get bit by a mosquito, it's in the back of your mind.”
Cuba is not on the travel advisory list. Cameron says she has another doctor's appointment just before she travels. She and her husband will decide at that point whether their trip is on or off.