Zika Virus

Silvia Diaz, News Editor

     As the amount of confirmed cases of Zika virus rise in Central and South American countries, health experts have cautioned travelers against going to an infected country.

     Concerns over the virus began when an alarming amount of newborns showed microcephaly, or abnormally small heads due to incomplete brain development, at the same time Brazil saw a sharp increase in reported Zika cases.

     Dr. Adriana Melo was among the first to theorize a possible connection between the two spikes. During her research, Melo found that the cases of microcephaly she has seen were never just microcephaly. Instead, the underdeveloped heads were just one in a list of brain disorders present.

     “This wasn’t a surprise to me. I always believed there was a connection between microcephaly and Zika,” Melo said in an interview with New York Magazine.

     The Zika virus, originally discovered in Uganda in the 1940s, has been rapidly spread in great part due to the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Mosquitoes have long been carriers of illness and disease linked to favorable warm climates.

     Because the mosquitoes known to carry the Zika virus cannot survive in the frigid temperatures of the Midwest, experts in Illinois have rated Zika a low level threat for state residents. Despite the low threat level, the same experts still caution people to be wary of the signs of Zika as the weather warms up in the coming months, especially if traveling while pregnant,  

     Those countries heavily affected by the virus are encouraged by the World Health Organization (WHO) to employ mosquito control methods.

     The British biotech company Oxitec has modified male mosquitoes to have to produce offspring that are unable to reproduce. Insecticides are also a method used to keep the mosquito population in check.

     The Zika virus has led to worries over the 2016 Summer Olympic Games set to begin in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5. Brazilian organizers, WHO and the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach all have maintained that the Games will go on as planned.