The World Health Organization has removed Zika labels from the Caribbean, according to an official statement from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
This removal by WHO of the virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, comes on the heels of data released by CARPHA, giving evidence that the Zika virus transmission in the Caribbean had been interrupted for over 12 months, or was at undetectable levels, thereby posing very little risk to residents and visitors to the region. This was matched by data shared with CARPHA by Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, which showed that no Zika had been detected, and no cases of Zika have been documented for more than 12 months in travellers returning from the Caribbean to their countries.
What this means for travellers
Prior to WHO removing the Caribbean from its list of at-risk travel destinations, countries including Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Barbados; Bonaire; British Virgin Islands; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Haiti; Jamaica; Montserrat; Puerto Rico; Saba; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Eustatius; Sint Maarten; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; and the US Virgin Islands were all previously under a CDC travel advisory.
Zika was first identified in monkeys in Uganda, back in 1947. Since then, it spread into Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, made its way into South America and Central America, and, as of recently, into the Caribbean.
As a popular destination for North American travellers, many destinations were marked unsafe for pregnant women, who are at risk of contracting the disease, given the mosquito-borne virus' link to the birth defect microcephaly, which halts the infant's skull to develop at a normal size.