First, Chipotle’s E. Coli outbreak (if you can even classify it as such) sent everyone running for Qdoba — for all of about a week. That’s what we Americans do. We panic. If one person reports a potential food-related illness, we vote to never ever support that establishment again. The mass panic eventually fades, but only after the facts make their way into mainstream media.
That is what’s happening this week regarding the Zika Virus/Fever. Bug spray (if you can even find bug spray right now) is flying off the shelves. Homeowners are likely calling their local Terminix, scheduling unwarranted, pre-Spring pest control services. Oh, how I wish I owned Terminix right now. Is it unnecessary? That’s subjective. But let’s look at the fiction vs. the facts.
So the fiction: Giant mosquitos from
Brazil have migrated to the US, biting and infecting Americans — in January — with all this snow on the ground. Oh, aight. The virus can be spread from person to person, and the people who have tested positive with the virus are walking around, giving it to people. Not. True.
Now for the facts. Here are 5 things you need to know about Zika so that you don’t spend your summer in long sleeves and overalls:
#1: What is Zika?
Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. It is not spread from person to person like a common cold. A mosquito infected with Zika is the only mode of transportation. That said, if an uninfected mosquito comes along and bites an infected person, that infected mosquito can then bite someone else and infect them. And so forth and so on. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth, but it is now yet known how often Zika is transmitted in this fashion.
#2: What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink-eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
#3: Who is at risk of being infected?
Anyone living in or traveling to an area where Zika virus is found who has not already been infected with Zika virus is at risk. The virus has not yet been reported to have been transmitted in the US. The reports you’re hearing about are about people who were infected elsewhere and were diagnosed when they returned to the US.
#4: What can I do to prevent becoming infected with Zika?
First off, you can’t go get a vaccine to prevent it. The vaccine doesn’t exist. The best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid being bitten. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by checking out the CDC website for instructions on how to protect yourself IF there is an outbreak when the weather starts to warm up. The good news is that once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
#5: Does this virus infect different people in different ways? Like pregnant women? Elderly? Children?
There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, CDC recommends that pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant consider not traveling anywhere that Zika has been reported. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor.
My (unscientific) advice is to chill for now. We don’t yet know much about this virus, and like Ebola, it will likely be contained and become a non-issue. Unlike Ebola, it hasn’t taken anyone out of the game yet. So don’t cancel your summer trips yet, folks. It’s not that serious.
P.S., I’m definitely headed to Chipotle for lunch. I’m overdue for a smash session.