Zika concerns Americans and CCHS community
April 29, 2016
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Colorado State University Professor Brian Foy had recently returned to his Northern Colorado home after studying in southeastern Senegal for six weeks when he noticed a rash over his torso. Almost immediately after Mr. Foy discovered the rash, his wife developed similar complications. Little did he know, Mr. Foy had passed on the first sexually transmittable case of the zika virus in the U.S in August of 2008.
Eight years later, the virus of Ugandan origin has completely migrated from Africa to the Americas and, according to the World Heath Organization, 52 countries and territories have reported local outbreaks as of Feb. 26. According to a Jan. 22 update by Portuguese website Portal da Saúde, there were between 497,593 and 1,482,701 zika cases last year in Brazil alone. As of Mar. 15, a total of 175,636 global cases have been recorded out of which 12 people have died, and 258 U.S. travel cases have thus been documented.
“Brazil is a hot spot for many mosquito-originated illnesses,” anatomy teacher Mrs. Mary Snyder said. “Brazil already has other mosquito born illnesses on top of zika, but the reason zika is in the news is that for some reason, fetal development is being affected by pregnant women’s bodily responses to zika. This is also the first time the Western Hemisphere has seen such a huge zika outbreak because the virus has historically always remained in Africa and Asia.”
Understanding the bloodline of the zika virus is a key factor to comprehending the virus’ very nature. Zika, which belongs to the same viral family tree as the West Nile, is also transmitted by mosquitos.
“Zika and West Nile are similar because they have some parallels in their symptoms including headaches and rashes,” anatomy teacher Mrs. Kendell Middlebrook said. “West Nile virus is a little bit longer lasting than the zika virus. Humans are the dead end species for West Nile; a mosquito can’t bite a human and then go and infect another person after being infected from the first human, unlike the zika virus where it’s human to mosquito to human transmission. For West Nile, you need birds in the mix to keep it passing as well.”
Both the zika and West Nile viruses are threatening to elders and people with medical conditions, but the zika virus affects pregnant women in such a way that microcephaly, an abnormal brain development in which the baby’s head is shrunken, is brought about during fetal stages. This caught the attention of the Brazilian government earlier this year.
Scientists tested South and Central American mothers who bore microcephalic children and found that they developed antibodies toward the zika virus, concluding that almost all subjects had been previously infected with zika. Scientists have yet to discover why pregnant women are so massively affected by zika when most people do not contract any effects after being infected.
In a letter sent to TSA officers by Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kathryn Brinsfield, it was announced that President Barack Obama was seeking more than $1.8 billion in supplement funding from Congress to spend addressing the virus.
The global threat of the zika virus grows in severity every day as more projections show a higher number of people who may become infected with zika. Multiple sources project that at least a few million people will catch the zika virus by the end of this year, and it does help that the 2016 Olympics are being held in Rio de Janeiro where about 7.5 million people are estimated to attend.
“Travelers do need to be informed before traveling to areas where outbreaks have occurred,” anatomy teacher Mrs. Lindsay Hergert said. “In some cases, people may need to consult with their doctors before traveling to these places. It does concern me a bit that so many people will be going to Brazil for the Olympics. They will just need to be vigilant and protect themselves.”
So how is zika a threat to the CCHS community? San Diego County’s first travel-related zika case occurred in early February, and according to The New York Times, zika is likely to reach southern and central California this year.
Some students will be traveling to mosquito infested areas, and those who already went to Nicaragua in February have already been introduced to a zika virus zone, possibly contracting the virus unknowingly. According to Mrs. Snyder, the population of mosquitoes in southern California has risen over time, and people need to start taking the situation seriously.
“What I tell people all the time is that you should always protect yourself from mosquitoes as much as possible because zika is only one virus,” Mrs. Snyder said. “People need to wear the repellant and keep themselves covered. In some places in the world, people sleep within a net hanging over their bed, and those are universal precautions that should be taken. I think it’s extremely helpful to follow strictly everything that the WHO and the CDC advise.”
People, especially those traveling, are urged to follow everything stated by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as they are continuously updating their research and releasing new information.
“People need to take into account that the birth defect that comes from zika is a lifelong condition, and I think once people follow these steps, the rate of viral occurrences in new areas will fall,” Mrs. Snyder said.