Travelers are ditching Zika-filled Caribbean for Hawaii this winter


When NY1 traffic reporter Jamie Stelter and her husband, CNN anchor and correspondent Brian Stelter, were planning a December getaway, they nixed their usual locales.

“We like to go to Miami. We’ve been to Puerto Rico. Anything in the Caribbean feels fairly easy to do,” says Jamie Stelter.

But instead of a quick two- or three-hour jaunt to the beach, the Stelters went to Kauai in Hawaii — a 10-hour-plus journey from NYC.

The reason? Stelter would be four months pregnant in December and the mosquito-born Zika virus, she says — which can cause microcephaly and other birth defects — had infiltrated their go-to destinations.

“I [didn’t want to] take the chance, especially after what it took for us to have a healthy pregnancy,” says Stelter, 34, who has been public about her difficulties conceiving and IVF treatments.

In Kauai, “it was all pregnant women,” she says with a laugh. “It was a big trip, but we both knew we wanted somewhere that was warm and beachy and relaxing, and you really can’t go anywhere close.”

It’s not surprising that other New Yorkers also are clamoring to say aloha. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports that more than 200 locally acquired Zika transmissions have occurred so far in Florida, and more than 33,000 in Puerto Rico. The number of infections in other Caribbean islands, it notes, vary. Thus far, Hawaii has seen no locally acquired cases.

A Delta rep tells the New York Post that the industry has seen an increase in passenger demand to Hawaii from New York in the last year. And the Four Seasons Maui says the hotel’s New York guests jumped up 3.5 percent since last year.

This Christmas break, Allyson Stumacher broke a 15-year family tradition of hopping aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise leaving from Puerto Rico for a Norwegian Cruise in Hawaii due to Zika fears.

The 33-year-old mother of a 8-month-old and 4½-year-old was concerned what would happen if her youngest got bit, especially after they’d had a previous Zika scare.

“We did that Caribbean cruise [while I was pregnant],” says Stumacher. “When I got back, it was announced that there was Zika in those spots. The CDC flagged me and I had to go for blood tests and everything. I wouldn’t put myself in the same position.”

Hawaii visitors be warned: it’s good practice to check the CDC website for updated warnings before any trip to a tropical area.

For 30-year-old Katie, a West Village resident who asked that her last name not be used, Maui was one of the few warm-weather options being considered when her family planned her stepfather’s 75th birthday celebration this week.

“If not for Zika, we probably wouldn’t be going on such a long flight. It definitely adds an extra expense with 14 people traveling and we have one 3-year-old with us,” says Katie, noting that the five-hour time change can prove difficult for youngsters. “But at least we have an excuse to visit such an exciting and beautiful part of America.”

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