Written by Julie Jerigan, Staff Writer
We’ve all heard horror stories about the new mosquito-borne illness Zika, but just how worried should we really be?
According to the Center for Disease Control, the symptoms of contracting Zika are rash, joint and muscle pain, red eyes, and headaches. In addition to adult symptoms, cases of the virus have been linked to the development of microcephaly in infants. Microcephaly is a condition where children are born with severely under-developed brains and smaller than normal heads, as well the development of Guillain-Barre syndrome, where the immune system attacks the nervous system, possibly resulting in total paralysis.
The CDC recognizes three methods of transfer for the Zika virus, a bite from an infected mosquito, through semen during sexual contact, and from any pregnant persons to their child.
The Georgia Department of Public Health says that two types of mosquitos in Georgia could carry the virus, though no mosquitos in the U.S. are infected just yet, and only one in five affected people develop symptoms. It’s still better safe than sorry when it comes to Zika, and though you shouldn’t cancel spring break plans any time soon, preventative measures are important.
If you’re planning to travel out of the country it could be best to check out the CDC’s list of countries where the virus is known to be directly transmitted by mosquitos to humans, and pack long clothing and bug-spray accordingly. Both the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health acknowledge that the best way to keep the Zika virus out of the U.S. is to keep yourself from being bitten by any mosquito while you are infected, as the virus can be transferred to whole colonies this way.
As we approach warmer months and peak mosquito season it would be in our best interest to take precautions but not to panic.
This outbreak seems reminiscent of the West Nile scare, and we shouldn’t stop enjoying the warmer weather because of an infected mosquito.
The news tends to sensationalize sickness, but we should only pay attention to the facts. No mosquito in the U.S. is known to carry the virus, so even when summer starts there’s no real reason to panic. People going outdoors should keep themselves from being bitten, but no one should worry just yet about a bite.
We should be more concerned with the health of our neighboring countries and how they’re dealing with the virus than worrying about a population of uninfected mosquitos within our country. If our government works to help rid nations close to the border of the virus it will ultimately inhibit the virus from spreading into the U.S. now.
Should we worry about Zika in the U.S.? Not so much. We should take precautions, and we should help our zika-infected neighbors in the south, but the virus is no reason to become a shut-in any time soon.