The New Ebola?: A Primer on the Zika Virus


Zika Virus may not be the top concern of the media and politicians right now, potentially due to the antics of a certain presidential candidate, but the world should be just as worried about Zika as it should have been about Ebola. That is, worried, but not panicked. Unlike Ebola, Zika virus is far more prevalent, and capable of spreading in developed countries. However, it is far less lethal.

Zika is spread by Aedes species mosquitoes (specifically A. aegypti and A. albopictus), and is being actively transmitted in most of Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. The disease can also be spread via sexual contact, and from mother to unborn child. There have already been 258 reported cases of the Zika virus in the U.S., all due to travel or sexual intercourse with a person who had traveled.

The difficulty in tracking Zika is partially due to its odd symptoms (or lack there of) as most infected persons display no symptoms, and those who do display symptoms usually display common ailments such as fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain, or headaches. However, certain individuals when infected with Zika displayed Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes paralysis. Moreover, pregnant women infected with Zika give birth to more babies with microcephaly, or a shrunken head, which is a potentially lethal and a debilitating birth defect.

So, don’t let worrying about Zika keep you up at night, but keep track of the situation, especially when traveling.