Tourists who stay in a London hotel now have to worry about Zika

For many small businesses, these are particularly nervy times.

On Monday, British health officials announced that the mosquito-borne virus Zika is coming to London. British officials announced the move a week after a virus-related travel warning was issued for one of the capital’s main attractions: the London Eye ferris wheel, which is often crowded on summer nights with tourists taking in views of the city skyline.

The London Eye isn’t the only attraction that may experience increased visitor caution. According to the New York Times, there are seven other places that the Health Protection Agency expects will be “vulnerable.”

U.K. officials have banned places that the Zika virus can spread from from – hotels, hospitals, and tourist attractions like the London Eye – from accepting new guests until the end of July, according to the New York Times. This could force thousands of hotels to cancel parties and weddings. And it’s not just visitors to these places who could be inconvenienced; hotels and attractions also prepare to serve drinks and food to new visitors.

“Restaurants, bars and nightclubs have already been impacted by the travel warnings, and restaurants are on even shakier ground with regards to flights coming in and out of London Heathrow Airport,” the New York Times wrote.

Since spreading widely across Latin America and the Caribbean in 2015, Zika has caused an estimated 2,400 deaths and thousands of birth defects, the Washington Post reported.

There is no vaccine against Zika, and its symptoms – a fever and muscle pain – can be vague or not present at all. But it’s been linked to severe birth defects. One local family in Florida has filed a lawsuit after their firstborn daughter contracted the Zika virus and developed microcephaly, or abnormally small heads.

Zika infections in pregnant women have been found to cause severe birth defects such as microcephaly. Researchers have yet to establish whether certain cocktails of drugs or vaccines could prevent birth defects. In the meantime, cases are continuing to pop up in the continental United States, even in states that haven’t seen an outbreak in the past year, according to The New York Times.

So far, there have been no reported cases of the Zika virus contracting in the United States via international travel. But experts have warned that the illness could circulate there if it spreads among local mosquitoes, according to the New York Times.

“The number of adult Zika cases in the U.S. is not expected to increase significantly over the next year,” said Karen Insel, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a recent briefing. “But that doesn’t mean a local outbreak could not occur.”

And, in addition to vacationing in the United Kingdom, it’s possible that infected citizens could wander to areas with higher risk of transmission. The Caribbean also poses a risk because dengue, another mosquito-borne virus, has also been implicated in the transmission of the Zika virus in recent years.

A 2006 U.S. travel warning to the Caribbean called dengue a global threat that “could increase in frequency and intensity through increased number of cases among a population at risk.” Despite the risks, 2016 dengue infections in the region are down, with a record high of just 86 cases registered in 2016 compared to 567 infections in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

But the potential spread of the Zika virus is still being tracked carefully. A woman who flew from Boston to a Caribbean island recently was diagnosed with Zika, the New York Times reported. And if a pathogen migrates into the Caribbean, tourism officials have already gathered medical information on citizens who are travelling there, hoping they have pre-existing medical conditions.

Leave a Comment