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Mosquito Power: Don’t Test It

Travellers, particularly pregnant women, heading to Zika-prone areas need to stay alert. We’ll help you with that as warmer, wetter weather approaches and mosquitos come out of hiding to feast on bare skin. To date, the Zika virus has been carried primarily (as far the experts know) by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. But there is growing suspicion that Aedes albopictus is a potential carrier. If this turns out to be the case, the risk area for Zika virus transmission will explode. The highest risk identified to date is throughout the entire subtropical and tropical area of North America: the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, most of South American (except Chile), and the southern U.S.—mostly Florida, the Gulf States, including Texas, the southern Atlantic coast region, and southern Arizona. If Aedes albopictus, which is common well beyond A. aegypti’s range, becomes a co-conspirator and joins the latter transmitting the Zika virus, then the entire area south of…

Zika “Emergency” in Florida—What Does It Mean for Canadians?

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a Zika-related public health emergency in five counties—Miami-Dade, Broward (Fort Lauderdale area), Hillsborough (Tampa area), Lee (Fort Myers area), and Santa Rosa (western Panhandle), citing confirmation of at least 12 cases of the virus. All of the cases are travel-related, i.e., the virus was contracted outside of the state, and the number is expected to rise over the next few days. The emergency order directs health and agricultural authorities to implement stringent mosquito control activities (spraying, removal of standing water, etc.) in all residential areas in those counties and to use any other measures deemed necessary to limit mosquito habitats. Said the governor: “[…] we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the Zika virus in our state.” His announcement is expected to be followed by similar actions in other states where Aedes aegypti (the mosquito species known to transmit the…

The Zika Virus Advances: Part 2

Since early January, when we first alerted you to the emergence of the Zika virus throughout the Americas, the impact of this mosquito-borne disease has been dynamic—even inducing several governments to advise pregnant women to avoid travel to a growing number of Zika-prone countries. The reason for singling out pregnant women (or those who might become pregnant) is that the Zika virus has been linked to an extraordinary surge of microcephaly—a fetal deformity resulting in unusually small heads and brains in newborns. The epicenter of this surge, and the region where it has been aggressively researched and documented, is Brazil, where almost 4,000 suspected cases were identified in 2015—30 times more than in any one-year period since 2010. Were it not for this link to newborn microcephaly, we likely wouldn’t be talking about Zika today, since its other manifestations are relatively mild (fever, rash, headaches, joint paint, and conjunctivitis) and…

Travel Warning: Zika Virus Invades The Americas

If you or someone you know is planning to travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central or South America, you need to be aware that a locally transmitted case of a newly detected mosquito-borne virus has recently been reported in Puerto Rico and Mexico, raising concerns that it could soon make its way to South Florida and South Texas. Outbreaks of the Zika virus had been previously reported in Africa, Asia, and the Oceania–Pacific regions. However, in December 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported confirmed cases of Zika infections in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela. Locally transmitted means mosquitos in these areas have been infected with the virus and are spreading it to humans. Now let’s make one thing clear: the Zika virus is no Ebola or SARS. So far, the virus has not been linked to…

Lessons from Paris for Canadian Travellers

If there is anything positive to come out of the terrorist attacks on Paris, it is the clear indication that you and millions of your peers will not be intimidated and forced into chucking your travel plans aside. Travel is what many of you live for, so go ahead with your plans—but add a layer of protection. Unfortunately, the events in Paris last week are not the last of the tragedies our society will face, so it pays to be prepared. One of the first lessons to be learned out of Paris is that when a city, country, or entire region is thrown into panic, the impact and anxiety is felt not only by the traveller but also by the traveller’s family and loved ones at home. You can avert much of that anxiety by maintaining clear and close links with your home base. Here are a couple steps you…

Sun Belt Weather for 2015–2016: Watch Out for “Godzilla” El Niño

Heard enough about freaky weather lately? Well, there’s more you need to know, especially if you’re heading south for all or part of the winter. And it mostly has to do with El Niño—the Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon that cycles in every two to seven years and dominates northern hemisphere weather patterns for months at a time. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting one of the strongest El Niño seasons ever recorded. Some of the experts who track these phenomena have even begun describing the forthcoming El Niño as the Godzilla of El Niños. But even they admit that the weather is a fickle master, and it can change in an instant. If there were an overview we might give you now, it would be the following: regardless where you are going in the Sun Belt, take your umbrellas along. And for most areas, you’re…

Shootings in Chattanooga: Emergency Planning in Today’s World of Security Risks

On July 16, 2015, a gunman opened fire in Chattanooga, Tennessee, targeting two separate United States military installations. The first shooting took place when the gunman began shooting at the glass doors of the Combined Armed Forces Recruiting Center while remaining in his car. All servicemen and women escaped through the back of the recruitment center, although one marine was injured in the crossfire. The shooter then drove seven miles to the next location, the Naval Operational Support Center and Marine Reserve Center. The gunman ran his car through the security gate and moved methodically through the facility, killing four marines before he was shot and killed by Chattanooga police officers. One of the shooting victims, a United States Navy sailor, died of his injuries two days later. The suspect was identified as Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a Kuwaiti-born 24-year-old who holds Jordanian citizenship. Abdulazeez was an American citizen who grew…

Travel Warning: MERS Outbreak in South Korea

An outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has been reported in South Korea, with 95 confirmed cases and 7 deaths thus far. As many as 2,500 people have also been quarantined to contain the situation. This is the first significant spread of the virus outside the Middle East, where it was originally reported in 2012. For travellers, there is no need to panic yet. So far, Canadian and American government agencies haven’t issued any warnings to avoid travel to South Korea. At present, it seems that human-to-human spread of the virus is not that easy, and is mostly restricted to situations with close contact (such as patient-caregiver contact). However, it’s still important for travellers to be diligent and informed about situations like the MERS outbreak whenever they’re heading abroad. Here are a few tips that can help any traveller stay safe: Be aware of travel advisories and warnings. Before…

Earthquake in Nepal: How Climbers and Backpackers Can Prepare Their Travel Safety Net

After a devastating earthquake followed by frightening aftershocks in the south Asian country of Nepal, many travellers have found themselves unexpectedly stranded, injured, or even worse.  For those who have survived, widespread damage means that resources to help them are in short supply. In the event of natural disasters like this, we are often asked what travellers can do to prepare and keep themselves safe. While, of course, there’s no way to avert an earthquake—and often no way to see it coming—there are numerous steps you can take that will help you stay safe or get access to the care you need. How can travel medical insurance help in the event of a disaster abroad? We’ve written many times about the reasons why travel insurance is a necessity for any trip. But what will travel insurance actually do for you in the event that you’re in an area affected…

How Will President Obama’s Announcement on Cuba Affect Insurance Agents?

How does President Barack Obama’s recent announcement regarding the significant changes to travel and financial transactions with Cuba affect your clients? Canadians, Latin Americans, and Europeans have been visiting Cuba as a travel destination for decades, In fact, Canadians are the top travellers to Cuba, making over one million trips to the country each year. However, the Cuban-USA foreign affairs embassy has been closed since 1961, which has meant that borders between the US and Cuba have not been open to US citizens for over 50 years. While President Obama’s recent announcement on loosening restrictions between the two countries means significant changes for Cuban-USA relations, it will also have the following effects for Canadians, Latin Americans, and Europeans travelling to Cuba: Improvement to the country’s infrastructure—more money pouring into the country means improvements to building, roads, and public facilities. Difficulties booking accommodations like hotels and resorts—with potentially millions of additional visitors…

Should Travellers Prepare for Bardarbunga’s Eruption?

In Iceland, there are concerns that the Bardarbunga volcano may be threatening to erupt—and many travellers are flashing back to four years ago, when Eyjafjallajokull’s ash cloud brought many airports to a grinding halt. Back then, Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption caused over a week of delays for the airline industry, leaving millions of travellers stranded in Europe and the UK. So, as Bardarbunga rumbles today, should travellers be concerned? Not just yet. While movements of magma have been confirmed—a possible sign that an eruption might be on the way—there’s nothing certain about it at this point. And air travel in the region has yet to be affected. In fact, even if the volcano should erupt, Europe’s air authority claims that there are now “better mechanisms in place” to navigate a volcanic ash scenario than there were back when Eyjafjallajokull was grounding flights in 2010. That said, there’s no telling what might happen…

Travel Alert: Ebola

British, Canadian, and US public health agencies have raised Ebola virus travel alert levels (avoid non-essential travel) for large segments of West Africa as death tolls attributable to this disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone mount rapidly. As of August 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 1,323 infected by the virus, 729 confirmed dead, (57 of those deaths in just the last four days), and a death rate of at least 60 per cent of those infected. What does this mean for you? No panic. No need to cancel travel plans. But use caution—especially when passing through airport hubs with large international traffic patterns. Make sure your travel insurance is in place. You may be asked to prove it, as many customs, immigration, and border control officers are on heightened vigilance for transiting passengers who look as if they might be ill or feverish. And stay attuned…

Travel Alert for Snowbird Winter Texans

The Rio Grande Valley, winter home for thousands of Canadian and American snowbirds (also known as Winter Texans), has become the epicentre for an unprecedented surge of illegal immigrants from Central America—most of them children fleeing home due to gang-related violence and killings. According to reports from the Associated Press, in the first week of June alone, US Border Patrol agents in the area south of the town of Mission (encompassing McAllen, Donna, Edinburg, Weslaco, Mercedes, and Harlingen) have arrested more than 2,800 illegal migrants (mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala), making it the highest-volume arrest zone on the entire US southern border. More than 60 per cent of those arrested have been children. AP also reports that the Border Patrol has made more than 194,000 arrests in the Rio Grande Valley sector since last October. According to recent polls of likely US voters, nearly half of the respondents believe the…

Tropical Virus Alert: Chikungunya in Florida and the Caribbean

Chikungunya, a debilitating, potentially lethal, mosquito-borne virus that has been ravaging the Caribbean over the past year, has crossed into South Florida, forcing public health departments in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties to issue preventive action warnings. This is the first known incidence of the virus on the North American mainland. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported more than 55,000 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus in 15 Caribbean countries so far this year, but the recent reports out of Florida show just how tenacious the virus can be. First identified in Africa in 1953, chikungunya quickly spread to Asia, countries bordering the Indian Ocean, and the Western Pacific, and it made landfall on the Caribbean country of St. Martin in December of 2013. From that point, there has been no stopping it. It has even shown up in Northern Italy. TIF first reported on the…

From Toronto Teen to Global Citizen

Here at Ingle, we love to hear about young people travelling the globe. Whether studying abroad or simply seeking their next great adventure, these youthful travellers get an A+ in our books. And while we continue to encourage and support international education that takes place in the classroom, what better way to learn and grow than to travel the world and take it all in first-hand? So when we heard about the Global Sunrise Project, we were more than just a little impressed. If you think that travel is the best education, you’ll want to learn more about this truly inspiring project… Who? 15-year-old Kasha and her ultra-supportive mom. What? Kasha plans to raise awareness about global issues by documenting her travels and providing a “visual voice” to those she meets along the way. Where? This mother-daughter team knows no bounds. Their hope is to visit 4 big continents in 6 short…

TIF Followup Advisory on Isaac #2

As we warned you in our previous advisory, Hurricane Isaac has developed, has taken its toll on South and central Florida, and is now steaming northward toward the Louisiana, Alabama and North Florida coastline.

If you are travelling anywhere into that vast area, or if you are already in it and contemplating your next moves, you need to remain aware of official warnings.

Snowbirds: Prepare for Hurricane Isaac

If you are bound for Florida or the Gulf States this coming weekend (August 25 through 27), or if you’re a snowbird who has property in this area, you need to keep your attention focused on tropical storm/hurricane Isaac, now building steam in the Caribbean.

Snowbird Border Crossing Alert: 2012

With the approach of snowbird season 2012, we need to warn you of the possibility of increased border crossing surveillance into the United States. But don’t panic.  The rules have not changed. You are still welcome as visitors. Read on, and we’ll give you some tips to make the crossover easier.

Travel Insurance Limited For Trips to Mexico

If  you’re anticipating a trip to Mexico’s interior this winter, or if you’re a snowbird living close to the Mexican border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California, be warned that your travel insurance may not cover you in many parts of the country now under Canadian or American government “Avoid Travel” warnings.

More Tourists Caught in Mexican Crossfire

A 68-year-old Penticton, BC, man, Mike DiLorenzo, was shot in Mazatlán on January 16 while vacationing in this Pacific coast resort town. According to media reports, he and his wife were coming out of a pharmacy when killers in a van drove by, blew the head off a man riding a motorcycle, and left Mr. DiLorenzo behind as “collateral damage.” Fortunately, Mr. DiLorenzo survived. In the meantime, tourism officials in the state of Sinaloa rushed to their microphones to explain that they would pay for repatriating him to BC for recovery and that Mazatlán remained one of the safest places in Mexico for tourists. That’s not saying much considering the carnage that’s going on throughout the country. The attack that caught Mr. DiLorenzo in its wake occurred less than two weeks after the grisly discovery of 38 bodies executed by drug thugs in and around Acapulco—15 of them decapitated. Tourism officials…

Mexican Drug Violence Spreading to Tourist Areas

Mexican drug violence has become so widespread and blatant that the nation’s President Felipe Calderon has announced he is hiring “the best (public relations) agencies in the world” to try to brighten up the nation’s business and tourism image. The week before his announcement, 160 people died in drug-related killings—many of those in two of Mexico’s major tourism areas, Taxco and Cancun. Think well before booking a vacation in Mexico this winter season.