You may have heard recently of the Zika virus. It is spreading rampantly, and healthcare experts have been issuing warnings nonstop about being wary of the disease. It is well known that the Zika virus is concentrated in Latin American countries with a fair chance of spreading upwards into the United States. Zika has no cure and can be transmitted through unprotected sex and insect bites. Most recently, the first case of Zika in the US has been confirmed from a Honduran woman traveling to the States. More alarming is the fact that on May 31, a baby from New Jersey was born with microcephaly through contracting the Zika virus. When people think about Zika, most assume that it is majorly concentrated in Brazil and is a point of contention for the upcoming Olympics, but not something we need to worry about. This track of thought is wrong—while there are travel bans to affected areas, Americans are being advised to not cruise to the Caribbean or visit Disney World in case they could be put in contact with the virus. However, this advice has not been publicized enough for enough people to actually heed it.
Despite all the major health risks Zika poses, especially to pregnant women, not enough momentum has been created in the States about prevention. The public needs to be more educated on the Zika virus now that it has become such a looming threat to the nation. We should be aware of the causes, symptoms and most importantly methods of prevention regarding the Zika virus. As we venture into the hotter summer months, people spend more time outdoors and cover up less, not to mention the abundance of insects all around. We already know Zika is transmitted through mosquito bites, and this time of year essentially presents an open invitation for a widespread occurrence of the virus if we do not take action fast.
If Zika were to spread rapidly in the U.S., we would be nowhere near prepared enough to deal with this epidemic. This virus can have devastating effects on infants born to mothers that have contracted the disease, causing fetal birth defects like microcephaly. Other telltale symptoms can include rashes, joint pain, fever and headaches. The potential rapid transmission of the disease, along with effects on offspring, renders this virus a top priority for both public education and prevention. Yet, despite the scientific knowledge that Zika can be dangerous if it spreads through our population, there has not been nearly enough coverage in the press or media. While there are people making a frenzy over Harambe the gorilla and the Stanford rape case, and rightfully so, a major health concern is being overlooked. Earlier this year, the Ebola virus caused massive frenzy in the U.S. but the same cannot be said of the public reaction to Zika. The reality is that the U.S. needs to set preparations in full force for an onslaught of Zika despite the media’s downplay of the virus’ severity.
Ankita Chakraborty is a third-year student.