Tourists warned to ‘think twice’ about visiting Disney World over Zika scare

The southern state of Florida has the second highest number of Zika cases in the US. © Kevin Lamarque
An expert has warned that as summer heat builds visitors to Florida’s Disney World are increasing their risk of contracting the Zika virus. Professor Jimmy Whitworth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned tourists to “think twice” before traveling to southern US states.

With 121 confirmed cases of the virus, Florida is second only to New York with 127, according to the CDC. Speaking to the Daily Mail Professor Whitworth said at the moment visitors to the state were not at risk but as summer months approach “the situation might change.”

Currently, all cases of the Zika virus in the US have been contracted abroad, according to the CDC. As the summer months bring an increase in both the tourist and mosquito population, the risk of a local mosquito biting an infected person and then transmitting the disease increases.

Earlier this month, Governor Rick Scott warned of an impending surge in Zika cases in the state.

“It’s going to get warmer, we’re going to have more rainfall, we’re probably going to see more mosquitoes in our state," he told the Miami Herald ahead of a meeting with Florida’s congressional delegate in Washington to discuss the issue.

The US is under increasing risk from the virus as neighbouring countries including Cuba, 90 miles from Florida’s Key West, confirmed 13 cases including one that was locally transmitted, according to TeleSur.

In bordering Mexico locally transmitted cases have also been confirmed.

Health officials have warned that in the US poor communities along the Gulf of Mexico with a history of dengue outbreaks are at the highest risk of Zika infection, according to Reuters.

On Thursday, Congress commenced a two-week break before resolving a dispute over a proposal by President Obama to allocate $1.9 billion to combat Zika.

Breaking at a key time in the fight against Zika has led to the CDC stepping in to provide emergency assistance, including an allocated $15 million to help local programs fighting Zika in need of funding, with an additional $25 million for at-risk states and territories.

The money is not expected to reach the states until August at the earliest, well into the height of the summer season when the areas will be most at risk.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week rejected a call from health professionals to postpone or move the Olympics in Rio to assist in the prevention of the spread of Zika.

“People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons," a statement said. "The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice."

READ MORE: Intl medical community urges WHO to ‘postpone or move’ Brazil Olympics over Zika threat