For some time the Zika Virus has made headlines thanks to its prevalence in South America and the particularly gruesome side effects experienced by pregnant women. More recently it has made headlines for the potential problems it might cause during the Rio Olympics. Now it’s making news because both the United States and the United Kingdom have confirmed cases of the Zika Virus. In the United States 9 cases in Florida have been definitively caused by mosquitoes in the United States, while in the United Kingdom 53 cases have been confirmed in people returning from overseas travel. Both instances highlight some of the potential problems countries face when dealing with the Zika Virus.
Florida has long been touted as the most likely ground zero for American born Zika Virus and now those predictions have become reality. In April Florida Senator Marco Rubio broke with the rest of the Republican Party and supported a $1.9 billion dollar White House backed Zika Virus prevention bill. The White House shifted over $500 million in Ebola funding to begin fighting the Zika Virus and many House Republicans felt that sum was enough to fight the disease. Despite little support from his own party, Rubio backed the bill because Florida has long been predicted to hit the hardest, as the state has had problems with other mosquito borne illnesses like dengue fever in the past.
The bill failed to garner the necessary support and a lesser funding bill was passed. Now that the speculation has become reality if Zika becomes a big enough problem some politicians may regret that decision. Still, for most of the country and most of the world away from the equator, Zika will remain a minor problem. In the United Kingdom conditions don’t really exist for the disease to breed naturally, but travelers infected in foreign countries could very well pose a problem thanks to the potential for sexual transmission.
In the United Kingdom 53 people have returned from abroad with confirmed cases of Zika Virus, should any of these people fail to take the proper precaution the virus could spread in a fashion similar to most STD’s. Thankfully just like other STD’s, simple precautions can go a long way towards prevention. Furthermore, for the vast majority of people infected with Zika Virus the disease is symptom free and there are few if any negative side effects after about 10 weeks. Simple precautions such as keeping a yard free of standing water, keeping screens on doors and windows, and using insect repellent can protect against contraction.
For those infected a few simple steps can expedite the recovery process and ensure the smallest possible impact. A very small percent of pregnant women who contract Zika Virus will experience birth defects, but women who might be at risk should wait at least 8 weeks before getting pregnant.
For men who might be at risk, they should wait 8 weeks before having sex with their partner. Still, even if these precautions aren’t taken the vast majority of people who contract Zika Virus, 80% to be more exact, will never experience any symptoms. It’s good to be safe and there are a lot of commonsense steps that can be taken to minimize the impact, but there is no need to be paranoid.