You may remember all of the media attention surrounding the Zika virus as recently as this past summer. However, as winter brought cooler temperatures and mosquito numbers decreased in the United States, there has not been nearly as much scrutiny regarding the virus. Although the U.S. remains relatively untouched by Zika to date, the virus must still be given recognized properly as a threat. If not, it runs the risk of spreading further into the states.
To provide context for any who may be fuzzy on the details of Zika, the virus is spread through mosquito bites. In the average adult human, the virus is not life-threatening, although it has been known to kill the elderly. Despite this, Zika virus deserves the public’s attention, especially because of its effects on pregnant women. Pregnant women who have contracted the Zika virus have babies at high risk for serious birth defects, including microcephaly. Microcephaly is a serious condition, in which the baby’s head and brain are abnormally small. It is often a lifelong disability.
To make matters worse, the Zika virus has no cure for patients, and researchers expect such a vaccine to take years to be discovered. The specific subset of mosquitos that carry the virus, named Aedes mosquitos, complicate matters more, as they are famously hard to eradicate. Normal insecticide-spraying elimination techniques have failed to be effective against the mosquitos. A minuscule amount of standing water is all they require to breed. Ecologist Gimena Ruedas even witnessed “mosquitos breeding in water droplets collected in a dried up leaf.”
Despite this, the potential spreading capacity of the bug is a contentious point of debate among researchers. Some believe America is not truly at risk for the spread of Zika. However, the simple saying ‘better safe than sorry’ comes into play. The Obama administration appeared to take this same approach in September of 2016, when the former president requested 1.9 billion dollars for the further investigation of Zika.
As of now, this issue is unresolved, and has certainly fallen by the wayside during the current political upheaval in the White House. Congress has been hesitant to pass funding for emergency aid overseas and for prevention efforts here in the United States. Without proper domestic funding, researchers can only do so much to protect the American people.
If Congress continues to be so wary about doling out resources, researchers want citizens to take care of any sources of standing water. In fact, in California, teams have been heading door to door to help do just that. These efforts are not enough, though. Gimena Ruedas, quoted earlier, gave the reminder that “We cannot go to every single house and look for every single bottle cap,” in which the mosquitos could breed. In the end, the success of the fight against Zika relies on the necessary funding from the government. If the threats imposed by Zika are not handled with the vigor they deserve, the Zika virus will not be going anywhere, except for possibly your hometown.