I’m coming out and sharing a secret today: We went to Mexico during the height of the zika virus and in the midst of my pregnancy with Traveler #4.
I found out I was pregnant right around the same time the zika outbreak was going on last year so there was plenty of news coverage on it. Every day it seemed like yet another infection was happening in a different warm-weather locale and there was plenty of speculation that an outbreak in the U.S. was inevitable by summer. We knew we wanted to take one last vacay as a family of three and had a preference for tropical destinations. We didn’t want to fly far given we had a toddler to bring and we also wanted a place that was budget friendly. After looking at all the options, we kept coming back to Cabo so that’s where we went. And guess what? I survived (we all did!). Traveler #4 is healthy (not to mention the sweetest baby ever).
Why take the chance? Because with all blatant warnings the government likes to issue, I was fairly certain that zika hadn’t spread to all of Mexico. In fact, when I looked at reports of where the virus actually was, it was inland in Mexico. There was only one report of zika in Cancun and one in the Puerto Vallarta area but hundreds inland. There were exactly zero reports of zika in Baja California. In fact, if Baja were its own country, there would be no warning against going there. Also, from the countless times we’ve been to Cabo, I also know that Cabo is really a desert. Deserts are dry. Mosquitos thrive in humid and wet locales which conflict with a desert location. Finally, the type of mosquito that carries zika can’t survive long and doesn’t travel far. So, in order for the virus to get to Cabo, someone who is infected either needs to get bitten in Cabo by the exact strain of mosquito capable of carrying the virus AND/OR somehow a mosquito with zika will have had to successfully travel all the way up north in Mexico and then back down south to Baja. The chances of that happening seemed rare.
Still, I took some precautions. I called the hotel we were staying at to find out what the mosquito situation was like. They said they sprayed for mosquitos and don’t see them around. They also said if I were worried, I could cancel my reservation at no charge. I checked this website daily leading up to our trip and there were never any reported cases of zika in Baja (although the site now shows there are some as of October). We planned the trip for July when it’s one of the hottest and driest months in Cabo. I packed long dresses and brought items to cover up with – just in case. Then, we brought cans of mosquito repellent with us.
So what happened? Not a whole lot, actually, but I did notice I was the only pregnant person at in Cabo – ha! We were in Cabo for ten days and I did not see a single mosquito while there, but Mr. T claims he saw one (though it wasn’t the right strain capable of carrying the virus) in the men’s restroom a few days into the trip. We started the trip spraying ourselves with the repellent but soon realized that there were zero bugs around us so actually did not use the repellent after that. Traveler #3 enjoyed lazy pool days mixed with beach days. She had a blast. We did venture out of the resorts for dinner at a farm one night and a boat trip to the famed arch as well and again, no mosquitos.
Did we make it back unscathed? At the end of the trip, we did have a bug bite, but I am not sure if it was a mosquito bite or some other insect. To put things into perspective, a couple of weeks after we were back, we went to Santa Barbara for the weekend and managed to come home with all sorts of bites. So essentially, we spent ten days in Cabo and came back with one bite but three days in Santa Barbara and came back with no less than 10 bites!
Would I recommend Mexico to you if you’re pregnant? As long as you’re headed to the typical tourist cities (if you need help deciding which one to go to, read my tips here), I wouldn’t dissuade you from going. I find that a lot of scares about other countries are really location specific, and broad general warnings about a country instill unnecessary fear. The U.S. found zika cases in the Miami area but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t visit the U.S. (just don’t go to Miami). Incidentally, we just came back from the Puerto Vallarta area (Nuevo Vallarta, actually, to be exact) last month and despite the more “jungle-like” environment there, we also did not get bit by a single mosquito there either. As with all things, do your research, pay attention to warnings recognizing that the media tends to paint broad generalizations when it comes to travel warnings, and then make your own decisions. You have to do what you feel comfortable with.
Here are some photos from our babymoon aka last family vacation as a family of three: