More than 1,400 Americans contracted Zika while traveling outside the U.S. this year and a Caribbean-island nation is one of the top destinations where they caught the virus.
Visitors to the Dominican Republic account for more than a fifth of the confirmed Zika cases in the U.S. through mid-July, according to data from state health departments. New York, Florida and California alone tally 304 cases linked to the country, the data show.
As Florida officials investigate what may be the first non-travel-associated cases of Zika infection in the U.S., Kaiser Health News looked more deeply into the origins of the 1,404 travel-related cases reported by all states to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What’s the explanation? In part, it reflects travel patterns between people living in the U.S. with family members in the Caribbean nation, public health officials say.
“It’s not really tourists going back and forth,” said Chris Barker, a researcher in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, Davis.
Dominican Republic immigrants are the fifth-largest Hispanic group in the United States, numbering 960,000 in 2012, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Their highest population concentrations are in New York, New Jersey and Florida. Dominicans comprise New York City’s largest Hispanic group and “have a significant travel exchange with the Dominican Republic,” according to the city’s health department.