Demystifying Zika and Mitigating Risk for Business Travelers

As new cases of Zika have arisen in Nassau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just added the Bahamas to its list of travel notices. The recent Zika outbreak has worried business and leisure travelers alike, prompting GBTA’s Risk Committee to host a webinar called Demystifying Zika and the Real Cost of your Employee’s Health When Traveling.

Physician Assistant and Assistant Medical Director Reade Bush shared insights about the virus and its introduction to the Western Hemisphere in the past year. Areas most affected are throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and portions of South America and the Pacific Islands. U.S. officials feel the cases are fairly well contained, and the virus will not spread more widely within the country. Those traveling to high altitudes are generally safe, due to the lack of mosquitos in those environments.

Zika can be transmitted by mosquito bites, blood transfusions, from mother to child, and sexually, but the spread tends to happen through humans traveling. The primary concern is its effect on pregnant women, as it can cause microcephaly and severe fetal brain defects, among other complications. Bush recommended various precautionary measures, as there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika. He suggested avoiding travel to Zika-infected areas if possible, using mosquito repellant, wearing long sleeves and pants, and refraining from being outside in the early morning or late afternoon when mosquito bites are more prevalent.   

Since Zika is a foreseeable risk, International SOS’ Group Executive Vice President Tim Daniel advised companies to have plans in place to deal with unexpected emergencies. Daniel continued saying organizations must take adequate measures where there are known risks, especially from a duty of care perspective. From a duty of loyalty perspective, employers must ensure travelers understand the key risks before traveling to Zika zones. Employers must also educate travelers and enable them to take advantage of preventative measures.

GBTA members may view the webinar in full here.

Here are a few of GBTA’s upcoming webinars:

The full schedule of upcoming webinars is available here.