Zika Virus and Travel

By now you have probably heard about the Zika virus outbreaks in the past year. Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks occurred mostly in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the first confirmed Zika infections occurred in Brazil and have since spread to areas in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Because many timeshare resorts are located in areas where Zika outbreaks are actively occurring, we wanted to give you the latest information about the virus and how to travel safely.

The Basics

Zika virus disease is an illness caused by the Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms include a fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes, although in many cases there are no symptoms at all. The illness is usually mild, with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. One major area of concern for some people is how Zika may affect a fetus if its pregnant mother is exposed to the virus. While many questions still remain, there is increasing evidence of a link between Zika and some serious birth defects.

zika virus

The following information is current as of March 18, 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Active mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus is occurring in the following areas:

  • Cape Verde
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean: Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama
  • The Pacific Islands: American Samoa, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa, and Tonga
  • South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela


There is no existing vaccine that prevents Zika virus disease, so the best way to protect yourself is to avoid mosquito bites. If you plan on traveling to one of the above territories, take the following precautions:

  • Expose as little skin as possible. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net.
  • Use insect repellent that contains 20% or more DEET. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant or breast-feeding women.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin (a pesticide used to kill mosquitoes and ticks) or purchase already treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings.

For more information on how to best prevent mosquito bites, see this helpful document. Be aware that all current travel notices are Level 2 (out of 3), which means to practice enhanced precautions, such as those listed above. As long as you are responsible and take the suggested precautionary measures, you should be able to safely enjoy your vacation.

Fiesta Americana Timeshare Experience

We received the following submission from one of our users about their experience with Fiesta Americana Vacation Club in Mexico:

“During our vacation to Cancun, Mexico, we were pressured and tricked into signing a contract for a 40 year membership with the Fiesta Americana Vacation Club in 2013. We felt uneasy about the whole process and signed after being pressured for 7 hours by high-pressure tactics. They promised a lot of things but they were empty promises and there were many lies. We tried canceling the contract within the 5 day grace period that companies are forced to give customers, but they claimed we rescinded our right to cancel and they made it impossible to cancel. They even threatened us to take us to court and that our credit score in the US would be affected as they have a billing company in the USA. We felt so stupid for signing and always regretted that day. fiesta americana

We were not happy with the membership either. I tried canceling the membership and they claimed there would be a penalty that would be more expensive than the whole membership was worth. This statement was actually true according to their contract. I researched online and found that we were not the only ones tricked and unhappy with these timeshare/vacation club memberships. It seems hopeless and we are very frustrated. I am afraid that if I stop paying, they will take legal action and have a collecting agency come after us and thereby affect our credit score in the USA. Remember, this is a LEGAL contract and it can be enforced in the USA.”

Timeshare Foreclosure Consequences

One of our users left the following comment on our “What Happens If I Stop Paying My Timeshare?” article in response to another person’s comment:

“I agree and have a Westgate time share and am going through similar problems and feel scammed…. My biggest question and concern is: If I “walk away and don’t pay” and let foreclosure happen on the time share can Westgate go after other properties I own? Im not worried about the credit scar, but am worried that liens can be put on my other property. Does anyone know the facts about how far they can go if you “Walk away and don’t pay”?”

The “walk away and don’t pay” concept is a tricky one. While there have been many instances of people walking away from their timeshares with no consequences, not paying the fees does often result in foreclosure, which has very serious consequences. Remember that timeshare is treated equally to real estate in the eyes of the law. Timeshare foreclosure can therefore be just as detrimental to your credit score as foreclosure on any other real estate property, following you for up to 7 years!

foreclosure consequencesAside from damaging your credit score, you can run into trouble if a mortgage lender obtains a deficiency judgment against you. When a lender forecloses on a mortgage, the lender then obtains possession of your timeshare property and sells it at auction. Since timeshares rarely sell at auction for the amount owed on the deed, the lender has the option to take legal action and sue you for the remaining balance owed, called a deficiency judgment. The mortgage lender can get a judgment lien against your personal property and other real estate you own within the county, giving it a security interest in that property. With a deficiency judgment lien, the creditor also has an interest in any personal property you owned at the time it filed the judgment, including jewelry, equipment, business assets, art, antiques, electronics, and any other valuables. Even further, mortgage creditors may garnish your wages (take part of your employment income) and/or attempt to levy your bank accounts.

So, yes, the bank–not Westgate or any other timeshare company–can go after other real estate properties (along with personal property, income, bank accounts, etc) you own. In short, try to avoid foreclosure if possible. If your timeshare is foreclosed, however, and the mortgage lender obtains a deficiency judgment against you, pay what you owe! It might not feel right, but it’s certainly better than having the bank go after your other assets. The takeaway is this: there is no way to predict what will happen if you “walk away and don’t pay” but be aware that you risk foreclosure and possibly a deficiency judgment.