Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Zika has captured the world’s interests. Where did this strange disease come from, why is it so deadly, and where might it strike next? The first infected Florida mosquitoes were recently found in Miami, and now there is worry the disease may eventually spread throughout the continental U.S. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, the virus may not have any symptoms, or it can manifest in signs such as the following.
- Pain in the back of the eyes, muscle or joint pain
- Fatigue, Fever, Chills, Loss of Appetite
Signs like red eyes or headache can also be common. For now, Zika is largely infecting pregnant women and their unborn children, or affecting those children after they’re born. The Zika Virus can be transmitted through insidious means such as a mosquito bite, which makes fighting it difficult. The U.S. has been responding with pesticides in an attempt to kill infected bugs, but these aren’t always effective since organisms can mutate, thus making them immune to the spray.
As the World Health Organization will tell you, Zika has been around for quite some time. It gets its names from the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was first found in monkeys in 1947. The next year, the virus was traced to the mosquito Aedes Africanus. The virus didn’t appear in the first Human until 1952, and only recently landed in the States. Unfortunately, this means the U.S. isn’t terribly prepared to deal with the outbreak.
Zikavirusnet.com found that the virus is primarily spread in three different ways: from the bite of an infected mosquito, through transfusion of infected blood or sexual contact, and more rarely, from a mother to her child when the mother is infected close to her baby’s arrival. The disease is also associated with an increase in the number of babies with abnormally small heads.
Cure Vs. Treatment
At the moment, there’s no permanent cure for the disease. However, as the Mayo Clinic notes, people can treat themselves using hydration, rest, and Ibuprofen to relieve pain. Their website has a downloadable PDF that contains further information on the treatment and symptoms of Zika.
Where Is It Going?
Maps from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show the estimated spread of Aedes Aegypti from the lower tip of Connecticut all the way out west to southern and central California. It’s not guaranteed that these maps will be accurate, or that every Aegypti will carry the virus, but it can give a good approximation of where Zika may go next.
Based on the CDC’s data, it’s likely Zika could spread to the rest of the continental U.S. if not stopped.
What Are We Doing To Fight Zika?
CNN.com spoke to CDC Director Tom Frieden about the government’s efforts to fight Zika. The CDC stated that they’ve developed a test that can tell whether a child has Zika based on a sample, and are working with at-risk areas to co-ordinate mosquito control efforts. The government is also testing mosquitoes to find out more about where the virus comes from and how they can fight it. Additionally, CNN mentions that mosquito traps and mosquito control measures are already in place in Miami Beach, where the first confirmed Zika outbreak was found Thursday.
Zika can also spread from an infected mosquito to a human, and then back to a once-healthy mosquito through bites. This will make it tough to test the number of infected mosquitoes in the country, and may also make the disease spread more rapidly. However, as Zika becomes more visible and widespread, we may be able to find a cure as we begin to learn more about it.
[Image Via Mario Tama/Getty Images]