Zika is a horrible little virus carried by a nasty little mosquito,
The Centers for Disease Control has been urging pregnant women to avoid trips to the countries currently suffering outbreaks of Zika, though the World Health Organization predicts that the virus will spread to every country in North, South, and Central America except for Chile and Canada, as these are currently the only countries in the hemisphere where the Aedes aegypti, or some other species of Zika-carrying Aedes mosquito, does not live. The Aedes albopictus or Asian tiger mosquito is found in the southern United States.
As of now there is no cure for Zika and the only prevention is to avoid the Aedes aegypti mosquito. According to Science Daily, Emory University disease ecologist Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec has called the Aedes "the roaches of the mosquito world, perfectly adapted to living with humans, especially in urban environments". Spraying areas with insecticide is only moderately effective as this mosquito's habitats are so varied; the Aedes aegypti can breed in the water in a plant vase.
There have been recent cases of microcephaly in the United states, in Texas, Illinois, Hawaii, and Florida, in newborns whose mothers had traveled to to South or Central America during their pregnancies. None of the cases are thought to have originated here, though it's not yet known whether the imported cases are capable of transmitting within the United States.
But CDC researchers are already working on a vaccine and yesterday President Obama called for a speeding up in the development of tests, vaccines, and treatments for Zika. The British lab Oxitec lab has developed a genetically modified sterile Aedes mosquito capable of mating with other Aedes mosquitos and preventing them from reproducing. Oxitec is waiting approval from the FDA to conduct trials on the Aedes mosquitos in Southern Florida.
The Ebola virus was a truly horrible scourge. But Zika is a scourge with wings.
1. "Zika virus: President Obama calls for urgent action" , BBC, January 27, 2016.
2. "Five things you need to know about Zika", By Sandee LaMotte, CNN, January 26, 2016.
3. "El Salvadore's Advice on Zika: don't Have Babies", By Azam Ahmed, The New York Times, January 26, 2016.
4. "Zika virus to spread to all but 2 countries in the Americas, WHO predicts, By Emily Smith, CNN, January 25, 2016.
5. "To protect against Zika Virus, Pregnant Women Are Warned About Latin American Trips"
By Donald G. McNeil, The New York Times, January 15, 2016