‘Bachelor’ Alum Melissa Rycroft Falls Ill on Trip to Dominican Republic. Is the Country Safe to Visit?

The Bachelor star Melissa Rycroft fell ill with a mysterious stomach ailment after a family vacation to the Dominican Republic. The 36-year-old is just the latest in a string of American tourists to get sick after visiting the Caribbean country.

While Rycroft is at home now and seems to be recovering, others were not so lucky. In the last year, nine U.S. visitors to the Dominican Republic have died while on vacation, with many others saying they’ve gotten sick. Officials in the island nation have said the deaths are “unrelated and isolated,” but that hasn’t stopped many people from wondering if the Dominican Republic is still safe to visit.

Rycroft’s trip to the Caribbean turned ugly

Last week, Rycroft posted a cut pic of herself with husband Tye Strickland and their three kids on the beach at the Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts in Punta Cana. “Made memories for a lifetime…!!” Rycroft captioned the photo. But things were very different just one day later.

“Not feeling well today, so puppy cuddles help since my kiddos don’t seem to care….,” she shared.

“After a really rough week, I have been put on a liquid diet, and given meds for my severe cramping. Fingers crossed this goes away in 3 days,” she added in a follow-up post.

Fortunately, Rycroft is now on the road to recovery, sharing that her doctor had given her some different medication and she was feeling “much better.”

What’s going on in the Dominican Republic?

Beach in Punta Cana
Tourists on the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic | Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images

Rycroft is one of many American tourists who have become sick while visiting the Dominican Republic in recent months.

A group of Jimmy Buffett fans say some members of their group came down with a serious illness while staying at the Hotel Riu Palace Macao in Punta Cana in April. At least six Oklahoma teens who were in the country celebrating their high school graduation also got sick after eating at a restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. The Parrotheads and the high school group both reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, such as stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea.

Nine Americans have also died during recent trips to the Dominican Republic. In several cases, people passed away after consuming drinks from their hotel minibar. That’s lead some to speculate that bootleg alcohol could be the cause. Others have wondered if a toxic pesticide is to blame.

Is it safe to travel to the Dominican Republic?

Empty chairs on the beach in Punta Cana
A beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic | Preto_perola/ iStock /Getty Images Plus

The spate of deaths has some wondering if they should cancel plans to travel to the Dominican Republic.

Authorities in the country say that the incidents are not connected. The U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic says that local officials have asked for the FBI’s help in conducting toxicology analysis on several of the recent cases.

“The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo is actively working with the Government of the Dominican Republic and the private sector at the highest levels to ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic,” Ambassador Robin Bernstein said in a statement.  

While the recent incidents have attracted a lot of media attention, there hasn’t actually been a spike in the number of Americans dying in the country. According to NBC News, the seven U.S. citizens who have died in the Dominican Republic so far in 2019 is lower than the number of deaths in many recent years. In 2016, 13 Americans died of unnatural causes in the country through June. In 2015 and 2011, the number was 15.

“We have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the department,” a State Department official told NBC.

If you are visiting the country, experts suggest staying at a reputable resort and opening windows in your room to provide ventilation. You should also carefully inspect the minibar before consuming any drinks.

“When you look at the sheer number of people who are vacationing there, and then you look at the number of incidents, the numbers are overwhelming in your favor but that does not prevent you or shouldn’t prevent you from asking some basic, common sense questions,” said CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg.