Is it safe to travel to the Dominican Republic?
Despite the rash of illnesses, the U.S. State Department has not issued an elevated travel advisory for the island nation. In April 2019, they issued a level 2 warning due to crime, but there have been no further advisories.
While many Americans are rethinking their travel plans, several experts tell PEOPLE that the number of people who have fallen ill is statistically minimal. “People do die on vacation,” says Sven Holmbom, manager of the Travel in Style agency.
The FBI and CDC have confirmed it is investigating the deaths of at least six of the tourists who have died since the summer of 2018. Some of them passed away in what appear to be bizarre — and similar — circumstances. The agencies are not yet releasing further details about the investigations.
• For more on the mysterious deaths in the Dominican Republic, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
Erika Richter, communications director for the American Society of Travel Advisors, says that each traveler has to make decisions based on “his or her own individual risk tolerance” — but that there is no need for widespread panic.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Robin Bernstein, the ambassador of the United States to the Dominican Republic, told Univision these high-profile incidents should not be considered anything more than isolated cases. “We have 2.7 million Americans who come to the country and the statistics is that this is a very … unique event,” Bernstein said in a statement. “They come to visit the beautiful beaches and enjoy the great culture. Unfortunately sometimes those things happen to people.”
Until the deaths and sicknesses are solved, “it’s hard to give any kind of advice,” says Christian Jannasch, destination manager for the travel agency Dominican Experts. “But if someone is worried and feels like they can’t enjoy the holiday, maybe they shouldn’t go.”