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Zika concerns not stopping travelers from visiting Florida

in Statewide by

Travelers might be worried about Zika, but it isn’t stopping them from traveling to the Sunshine State.

The University of Florida’s Tourism Crisis Management Initiative found more than 70 percent of potential visitors are concerned about the mosquito-borne virus. However, the study found about 10 percent of potential visitors have actually changed their travel plans.

There are more than 480 cases of Zika virus in Florida. According to the Department of Health, 25 of those cases aren’t travel related and are believed to have been transmitted by a mosquito bite. All of the local cases of Zika are believed to have been transmitted in the Wynwood neighborhood, a trendy arts neighborhood near Miami.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday said the Department of Health had cleared four blocks in the southwest corner of the impacted zone. The department, Scott said, concluded no local transmissions were occurring in that part of the neighborhood.

Scott said the state is “confident that our mosquito education, prevention and control efforts are working.”

And that means good news for the tourism industry. University of Florida researchers surveyed 828 potential domestic visitors who planned to travel to Florida within the next six months. The survey, which was conducted three days after 15 locally acquired cases of Zika were discovered, found about 10 percent of would-be visitors changed their plans because of concerns over the virus.

The report found 60 percent of people who changed their plans just postponed their trip. About 25 percent said they went somewhere else.

Researchers found about 15 percent of people who changed their plans asked a medical professional for their opinion before making a decision.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the illness. The virus has been shown to cause birth defects, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged pregnant women to avoid unnecessary travel to the impacted area.

Scott has encouraged Floridians to do their part to stop the spread of the disease. That means dumping out standing water, and wearing insect repellant and protective clothing.

The University of Florida study found 82 percent of potential travelers were aware wearing insect repellant was a good protective behavior.

Ignatius Cahyanto, the lead study researcher and affiliate researcher TCMI, said hotels and popular tourist destinations can do their part keeping guest safe by making insect repellent available and providing with other safety tips.

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