BY BRIAN COSTA
According to a new study from PLOS Currents: Outbreaks that was discussed in the Washington Post, researchers have found fifty cities in the United States that have a suitable environment for the Zika Virus to survive and cultivate.
Understandably, this statistic certainly warrants some kind of concern. According to the same study, the Zika virus traces back to 1947, when it was in fact extracted from primates not mosquitos, in the Ugandan Zika Forest. A year later in that same location, the Zika virus was then found in the Aedes africanus mosquito, which has been pinned as the main transmitter of the outbreak in South America, especially Brazil. In fact, the Zika virus was brought to Brazil in 2015 and would immediately attain international prominence when the World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” according to the CDC. What’s even more concerning is the way in which the virus spread at an unbelievably fast rate to Brazil’s neighboring countries, to the Caribbean, and now across the Pacific and Atlantic, with even South Korea recently receiving its first case, as discussed in greater lengths in BBC News.
How is the Zika virus spread?
According to the CDC, there are several ways in which this disease can be contracted and passed from one person to the next. It could be transmitted through mosquitos. What is also important is the reverse pathway in which mosquitos can contract the virus through infected people. This helps the Zika virus spread at a faster rate. The second way in which a person can contract the virus is for the disease to be passed from the mother to the child. That is, a pregnant mother that contracts the virus, even close to the time of delivering the baby, allows for the possibility of the virus to be passed down to the baby. Thirdly, infected people can spread the disease to others through sexual contact. Cases of transmission though blood transfusion have also been documented in Brazil.
That being said, should the United States be concerned for an explosion of cases in the near future?
In a January interview with BloombergBusiness, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, predicts that while the Zika virus may come to the United States, it will not spread at explosive rates across the United States the way it had in Brazil and other countries in South America. Osterholm asserts that the United States mosquito control is superior relative to other nations struggling with the epidemic. Nonetheless, especially being that there is no known cure for the disease yet, he advises that people avoid getting mosquito bites as well as, particularly women, to refrain from traveling to countries where the virus is prevalent.