What it is, and why you should be worried.
Since May 2015, an outbreak has been slowly brewing in South America. At first, it was an isolated case. But since then, this disease has grown to become a virus spreading so quickly it is expected to infect those throughout North America in no time at all. The biggest concern of all is: no one knows how to cure it. But, here’s what we do know:
- Zika Virus is a serious threat.
The alarming rate at which the Zika has spread has sparked international concern, garnering attention from many such as the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The WHO has gone as far as having assembled an emergency organization to discuss ways to combat the fast-spreading virus.The disease, spread by the aggressive Aedes mosquito, has been reported in at least 23 countries, and according to the WHO, is expected to infect at least 4 million people by the end of 2016. The areas it is expected to appear in are anywhere the Aedes mosquitoes normally breed. This means that the majority people living in North America, barring Canada and other cool areas, are at risk of Zika.
The symptoms of Zika are usually mild, usually consisting of fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. However, in some cases, it is more serious− in pregnant women, there is a growing connection between infected mothers and infants with neurological birth defects. These children will most likely require support for their entire lives, a costly and straining situation for Additionally, there have been scattered reports linking Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own nerves. If these correlations are indeed what they seem to be, the problem becomes much more severe.
2. Controlling mosquitoes is the only way to prevent outbreak.
As warm weather approaches, mosquitoes will inevitably appear more frequently, resulting in faster transmission of Zika. Warm weather from global weather phenomenon El Niño, is expected to make the situation worse. With researchers scrambling to find a cure for the virus, there is no other option but to control the mosquito population itself. With over half of the US population living in areas vulnerable to Zika, this action must be taken quickly. How? The CDC is encouraging people in potential Zika outbreak areas to eliminate standing water which can be a breeding area for mosquitoes. However, as sophomore Alexander Small observes, this can only do so much.
“Just eliminating standing water probably won’t have a big effect on the spread of the virus because there is no way people can reach all breeding grounds.” Small says. He adds that mosquitoes have gotten used to living near humans, and will be able to find places to replicate regardless of what people try to do.
The greatest concern about the breakout of Zika virus is being shown In Brazil. With around 500,000 people from all over the world expected to come to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics, researchers are looking for ways to contain the Aedes mosquito population in an already-infected country. The most promising method is a genetically modified male mosquito from Oxitec, a British company specializing in insect control. The mutant mosquitoes are made to pass on a gene that makes their offspring die, and have proven hugely successful in field tests carried out in various countries.
3. Everyone can do their part to prevent the spread of Zika.
Currently, the only way to prevent Zika from spreading is simply to avoid mosquitoes when in areas where Zika is present. However, in spite of there being no cures or vaccines, it is possible to take preventative measures in many ways. One of the easiest steps to avoiding infection is staying in during dusk and dawn, times when the Aedes mosquito is most active. If going outside is necessary, insect repellents can be used to keep mosquitoes at a safe distance. Additionally, any flowery scents are known to attract mosquitoes, so it is a wise decision to put any perfumes away during the warmer months. In the case that Zika disease is suspected, it is recommended that the individual contact their healthcare provider as well as avoid getting bitten by more mosquitoes that could transmit the disease to others.
The most important thing to do in order to prevent further outbreaks of Zika comes down to one thing: stay updated. As officials and researchers work day and night to eradicate this new outbreak of disease, the best thing to do is stay informed and know what is going on, in order to keep everyone safe.
CDC (mosquito pic)