By JACOB DAVIS Staff Writer
Between the end of summer, the start of school, and football season, many of us have forgotten one of the many topics that overtook the news just before the summer of 2016. No, this is nothing about Donald Trump, or Colin Kaepernick. We’re talking about a more health related topic, The Zika virus, which broke out just as summer was starting. A majority of people had only first heard about this virus during the most recent outbreak. However, the disease has been around much longer than that.
In 1947, the Zika virus was initially found in “rhesus macaque”, which are small monkeys typically used in medical research. The monkey was taken from the Zika Forest, in Uganda. What kind of a name is “Zika” anyway? According to zikavirusnet.com, the virus obtained its name from the word zika, which means “overgrown”. Since then, there have been two major outbreaks. The first was in 2007, in a series of islands known as Micronesia, located north of Australia. The other outbreak was in 2015 and is still going on in Europe, as well as the United States. The main cause of the outbreaks are mosquito bites. Aedes mosquitoes are the specific mosquitos that can carry, as well as spread the disease.
After the initial wave of Zika in the news, many people forgot about the virus, which had been “swept under the rug” by the various other news stories of 2016. The general consensus among people was that they could only get the virus via a mosquito bite in either South America or Europe. This assumption could not be more wrong.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 43 Zika cases have been identified in the United States in many different ways. To begin with, people who have been bitten in other countries have returned with the virus. Additionally, there is a small section of Miami, Florida, which currently has infected mosquitoes. Also, Zika has been passed through sexual contact. The final, and most concerning way this disease is spread is through pregnancy, being passed on to the child through the infected mother.
Zika has very negative effects on childbirth. It can cause birth defects to a child whose mother has the virus. For the most part, the defects are brain related and often times fatal. One of the defects is known as Microcephaly, which results in the child being born with an unusually small head, as well as an underdeveloped brain. In Texas, a mother who contracted the disease while out of the United States, gave birth to a child with Microcephaly due to Zika. The child died shortly after birth due to said complications.
The biggest problem with the Zika virus is how little we know about it. In fact, many people have never even heard about the virus. Ben Ash, a student at Cumberland County College, majoring in business management said he “didn’t know much about the Zika virus.” He also said, “I only heard of Brazil being an area to contract Zika because of the Olympics.” If people remain unaware of what Zika is, it will make it that much harder to stop the spread of the disease in the future. The best way to reduce the chance of spreading Zika are as followed; First, take additional precautions to avoid getting bit by mosquitoes, such as wearing bug spray. Second, avoid sexual contact with those who have the virus. If you are unsure if your partner has the virus, use protection. Lastly, avoid going to areas that are confirmed to have infected mosquitoes in the area. Bug spray is not a fire way to avoid bug bites.
To help stop the spread of the Zika virus, the best defense is awareness. The more aware people are, the more likely they are to take precautions in avoiding the virus and its effects. With a disease as potentially dangerous as Zika is, we all need a general idea of what Zika is.
Photo courtesy of CDC.gov