There have been two cases of Zika virus confirmed in B.C. and a local pregnant woman is speaking out about the trouble she had trying to get a refund on a trip to the Dominican Republic. It was only until Global News got involved that she was able to get a reimbursed on her cancellation.
Elena Lanteigne says her doctor told her to cancel her trip to the Dominican Republic, where the presence of Zika was recently confirmed.
“When I consulted my doctor, she did advise to use caution and not even go, because there is a high risk to the baby if I do get infected,” says Lanteigne.
Zika virus infection is caused by a virus that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms can include fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and rash, along with joint and muscle pain. The illness is typically mild and lasts only a few days.
But the mosquito-borne disease is being linked to birth defects in Brazil. A number of babies are being born with birth defects, such as infants born with an abnormally small head and microcephaly, an underdeveloped brain.
Health officials say the virus is “spreading explosively” and will touch every part of the Americas.
Worried for her unborn child, Lanteigne called her travel agent, but was initially told that even though she purchased travel insurance, she would not be getting a refund.
“It’s very frustrating,” Lanteigne told Global News on Wednesday. “The insurance company is not willing to provide any type of options and I asked if it may be possible to escalate the case or to have someone look at this, because I suspect there are lot of pregnant women caught in this situation.”
Lanteigne says she was told her only other option would be to re-book and fly to Cuba instead.
She bought her ticket in August, long before she became pregnant.
Lanteigne says originally the insurance company told her the travel advisory was not at a high enough level to make her trip eligible for a refund. Currently, the Zika travel health notice in Canada is at Level 2, indicating pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their health care provider to assess their risk and consider postponing travel to areas where the Zika virus is circulating.
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Level 2” warning, which advises you to exercise caution. Canadian officials are currently urging pregnant woman to consider postponing travel to countries dealing with the outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus. If the threat escalates to “Level 3”, most insurance companies will cover the cancellation fee.
Lanteigne’s trip was provided by Air Transat, which told Global News that pregnant women who booked a trip with them to a destination affected by the virus and listed by the Pan American Health Organization, can request for date or destination changes upon receipt of a medical note confirming the pregnancy.
Lanteigne was insured with TuGo through Scotiabank. Thursday night, Lanteigne informed Global News her travel agent gave her a call and said the insurance company has decided to make an exception and consider her claim.
READ MORE: Should Canadians worry about Zika virus?
The Zika virus has now spread to 20 areas, including the Caribbean Islands.
B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, says the list of affected countries is expanding on an almost daily basis.
“Mexico is potentially a place where you could encounter the Zika virus,” adds Kandall.
Health Canada says there have been cases of Zika virus reported in Canada in travellers returning from countries where the virus is known to circulate. Two cases have been identified in British Columbia.
There have been no reported cases of locally-acquired Zika virus in Canada.
MAP: Countries and territories with confirmed cases of Zika virus in the Americas
American Airlines, United and Delta are all announcing that concerned passengers can cancel or re-book flights to Zika-affected areas.
Air Canada and Air Transat are allowing pregnant passengers to re-book.
WATCH: SFU professor and Zika virus expert Carl Lowenberger explains the risk of virus spreading in British Columbia
Canadian travellers visiting affected areas are being encouraged to protect themselves against Zika virus by preventing mosquito bites, including using insect repellent, protective clothing, mosquito nets, screened doors and windows.
There is no vaccine or medication that protects against Zika virus infection.
The World Health Organization announced it will be holding an emergency meeting next week to decide if the virus outbreak should be declared an international health emergency.
For the latest map of confirmed cases in the Americas, go here.
With files from Nadia Stewart and Negar Mojtahedi