Debt-laden Puerto Rico now has travel warning over Zika to worry about

martes 19 de enero de 2016 17:21 GYT

NEW YORK Jan 19 (Reuters) - The tourism industry in debt-burdened Puerto Rico urged precautions on Tuesday after U.S. health authorities alerted pregnant woman against traveling to the island because of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel warning on Friday for 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America, including Puerto Rico, where infection with Zika is a risk.

It particularly cautioned pregnant women, as Zika has been linked to serious birth defects. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, reported its first case of Zika in December.

"We are closely monitoring all information about the Zika virus jointly with all the tourism-related organizations," Clarisa Jimenez, president and chief executive of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Jimenez said travel agents, meeting and convention planners were being informed of the measures being taken at the tourism destination level.

"Among these are urging the use of repellents and vigilance of spaces prone to accumulate water in order to eliminate them and avoid the breeding of the mosquito," Jimenez said.

Zika is usually a mild illness with fever, rash and joint pain. There is no preventive vaccine or treatment, according to the CDC.

While the travel cautions may not help the island's image for tourists, it is not seen having a significant economic impact. Puerto Rico is struggling with $70 billion debt and is trying to renegotiate payments with creditors.

"I would be very surprised if it has any noticeable impact on the Puerto Rico economy," said Height Securities analyst Daniel Hanson. "There was pretty much no (economic) effect from the Dengue fever outbreak."   Continuación...