Zika puts people on alert

Underestimating the virus affecting thousands of infants

Mosquito Online

Illustration by Madison Moore

 

Over 20 countries affected. 4 million predicted to be infected by the end of 2016. Nearly 4,000 infants born suffering from microcephaly in Brazil alone.

A new mosquito-spread virus has taken ahold of the world’s attention with cases reported all over Central and South America and the World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the outspread of the virus known as Zika. But are our local governments doing enough to prepare for it?

The culprit insect in question is the Aedes mosquito, known for spreading other diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and the now infamous Zika, which are all known to cause fevers, joint pain, and dehydration among other symptoms.

The problem with Zika is its effect on mothers-to-be, with infected fetuses experiencing a halt in brain development.  

In truth, infants presenting cases of microcephaly, or an unusually small head caused by slowed brain growth aren’t completely unheard of in the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) reporting rates of between 2 in every 10,000 live births to 12 in 10,000, varying from state to state.

With nearly 4 million babies born in in the U.S. in 2013 that means we had an average 2,800 births of babies with an abnormally small head that year.

The real fear, however, is in the unprecedented spike of cases in South America, with Brazil having only reported 150 cases of microcephaly in 2014 compared to3,700 cases found since 2015.

The spikes have been so daunting that the government of El Salvador has gone as far as to advise all of its citizens against having children until 2018, and various countries including ours to post travel advisories to South America.

In the U.S. we’ve already seen isolated cases of Zika, luckily none involving pregnant women. One man in Texas drew headlines when he contracted Zika through sexual transmission.

In a much applauded decision, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 5 counties after 12 cases were reported all across the Sunshine State. Since then, 2 more were discovered.

In nearby L.A. county there have been twopeople diagnosed with the virus. They, like almost all of the cases reported in the U.S., contracted the virus whiletraveling abroad.

More recently it was revealed President Obama plans to ask congress for over $1 billionto help combat the virus.

It is Zika’s rapid spread which has prompted the W.H.O.’s issuing of a public health emergency and despite this move affirming the severity of the issue, many local governments have failed to even draw attention to the disease.

Any country where the Aedes mosquito is found should be preparing its citizens for possible outbreaks which includes Riverside county, however we have yet to hear anything out of our local representatives.

Furthermore, Riverside City College’s position as an education center serving the local community puts a certain pressure on it to warn and educate its female students about the possibility of the virus becoming present within the county.

In South America, cases of Zika affecting newborns are far more prevalent in poorer communities where women have less access to information and prevention resources.

That same threat is present in lower income areas of Riverside should the virus hit the area.

The college offers free health screenings and a resource center for students needing help or information so why is it a stretch to think it should also provide information on the prevention of virulent diseases spreading?