When an International Threat Affects Travel Plans
Unless you’ve unplugged from television or social media over the last couple of weeks, you’ve likely heard of the Zika virus spreading throughout South, Central, and North America. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Zika virus is a disease spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. At the time of print, the Zika virus is considered to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s been reported the disease causes serious birth defects of the brain of newborns to mothers who are infected by the disease. As a result, a travel warning has been issued for pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant to avoid traveling to affected areas.
Of course, this isn’t the first health alert that has caused a travel warning. In recent years, we’ve had Ebola, Mad Cow, Avian Flu, Swine Flu, West Nile Virus…and the list goes on. With international travel being more accessible to more people worldwide than ever before, different infectious diseases will continue to occur.
What can we do as international travelers regarding these infectious diseases? Be mindful, don’t panic, pay attention to the travel warnings, and take the necessary precautions to minimize your risk. In the case of the Zika virus, apply insect repellent or, if pregnant or planning to become pregnant, avoid traveling to the affected areas.
Finally, if nothing else, purchase travel protection.
While travel protection (often referred to as “trip insurance”) will usually not cover items considered an epidemic, pandemic, or the fear of contracting an infectious disease, it can be your best supplemental travel item purchased in most circumstances.
In general, travel protection will safeguard your travel investment if you had to cancel or interrupt your trip due to an unforeseen medical emergency such as illness, injury or death of the traveler, travel companion, or immediate family member not traveling. These are known as ‘covered reasons’. Other ‘covered reasons’ can be things like being laid off of a job, jury duty, and being called to active duty for military personnel. While no two travel protection policies are alike, most of them cover these types of circumstances.
Some travel protection policies may also be ‘cancel-for-any-reason’ which will allow you to cancel your trip and receive up to a full refund of trip cost (not including the cost of the protection). These policies are usually the best to have when available because there’s little to no paperwork required when filing a cancellation claim.
Travel protection often includes protection during travel as well. For example, if you get hurt or injured while traveling, it will usually reimburse your out-of-pocket expenses in having to see a doctor. Or, in the case of the recent east coast snow storm, if your vacation gets involuntarily extended due to flight cancellations or airport closures, travel protection will help pay for the cost of additional hotel nights, meals, and other unexpected expenses.
While travel protection may not cover everything such as fear of the Zika virus or any other infectious disease, it covers quite a bit and is well worth the cost. Like other types of insurance, it’s better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it.
Leslie Richardson is a Master Cruise Counselor with Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Services Agency. She can be reached at (877) 846-SHIP, (713) 491-4989, or www.jetsetterscruises.com.