Jan 26 (Reuters) - Travelers and expecting couples took to social media on Tuesday to express concerns about visiting countries potentially affected by Zika after the World Health Organization warned the virus is likely to spread to most of the Americas.
The outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus comes as a record percentage of Americans plan a vacation in the next six months and a near-record proportion of them look to travel abroad with a strong U.S. dollar making overseas destinations more affordable.
One Twitter user, Tito (@FaustoRivera5,) said the virus had affected his travel plans to Costa Rica.
“Damn u Zika virus. Messed up my trip to Costa Rica,” he tweeted.
Canada and Chile are the only countries in the Americas the virus is not expected to reach, the WHO said on Monday.
Several Twitter users lamented their ruined vacations and their inability to get a refund from tourism operators.
Stu Privett, an HR systems specialist for the Royal College of Nursing in London, tweeted he had to cancel his upcoming trip to Barbados. He planned to take the trip with his wife, who is in her first trimester. Privett said he was unable to get a refund for the trip from Virgin Holidays.
“They basically said it was our choice not to go on the holiday,” Privett told Reuters. “Basically [it‘s] a case of ‘we just lose all the money we’ve spent.'”
A Virgin Holidays spokesperson said the company would look into the claim.
Another Twitter user, Mitch Svor (@AzSvor), wrote to American Airlines about a possible refund for a planned trip to a Zika-affected country: “@AmericanAir My wife is pregnant and we are advised by doctor not to fly to areas with the Zika Virus. Will you be able to refund our fare?”
American Airlines replied, “We’re currently refunding tickets for flights to SAL/SAP/TGU/PTY/GUA. If that’s your destination, please DM for further details.”
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (@CDCgov) continues to add countries to its list of affected destinations, it has used Twitter as a platform to discuss the virus. Its Twitter account warned travelers to “consider postponing travel to areas w/ ongoing Zika transmission.”
Data released Tuesday from the U.S. Conference Board as part of its monthly Consumer Confidence Index showed a record 54.4 percent of Americans plan a vacation in the next six months.
Some 11.2 percent said they plan to travel overseas, down slightly from the 11.5 percent in October, but still one of the highest readings in the survey’s history dating back to 1978. (Reporting by Melissa Fares and Amy Tennery, additional reporting by Eleanor Whalley; Editing by Andrew Hay)