2016

Attack of the Zika

The human body is an impeccable machine made of tiny, living particles that compose every part of our physical existence – cells. Without our conscious thought, our cells produce the necessary proteins, enzymes, and hormonal responses that allow us to function normally on a daily basis.

In comes the virus – a semi-alive being that can interrupt this process entirely. Essentially “an infectious particle made of biological information wrapped in a protein coat”, this tiny invader can wreck havoc on our cells (Brookshire). One of the most consequential invaders most recently has been the Zika virus.

Named after the Zika forest in the East African country of Uganda, this virus hijacks cells of people, most of whom who will remain unaware of the invader in their body. However, one out of five people will get visible symptoms such as pink eye, fever, or rash. Nonetheless, the real scare of the Zika virus is its link to microcephaly – “a condition in which babies are born with small heads and brains that aren’t fully developed” (Brookshire).

The recent wave of these brain disorders and defects in babies caused by the Zika virus prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a state of public health emergency on February 1 (Rosen). Although it was first spotted in Uganda, the virus – spread by mosquitoes – has infected people in Brazil, Central America, and Mexico. While scientists aren’t precisely aware of how the virus causes these effects, experts believe that the infection of pregnant women from the Zika virus causes their infants to be born with small heads and brain defects.

Brazil alone has reported over 4000 cases of suspected microcephaly since October, and this number is continuously on the rise (Rosen). Furthermore, there have been several cases of the Zika virus reported in the United States – with eight of these cases appearing in California alone. According to San Jose Mercury News, “Half of those have been in Bay Area counties. Contra Costa County has reported two cases, with San Francisco and Napa counties reporting one each” (Seipel). Therefore, people (especially pregnant women) living or traveling in these regions have been warned to avoid mosquito bites (through bug spray, proper clothing, mosquito nets, etc) in order to prevent infection from the Zika virus.

Brookshire, Bethany. “Scientists Say: Zika.” Student Science. Society for Science & the Public, 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <https://student.societyforscience.org/blog/eureka-lab/scientists-say-zika>.

Rosen, Meghan. “Zika Worries Go Global.” Student Science. Society for Science & the Public, 2 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <https://student.societyforscience.org/article/zika-worries-go-global>.

Seipel, Tracy. “California Zika Virus Cases Inch up to Eight.” San Jose Mercury News. Digital First Media, n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2016. <http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_29596427/california-zika-virus-cases-inch-up-eight>.