We know, we know, you've been saying to yourself, "Gosh, we’re almost a month into 2016, and we haven’t had a worldwide panic about an infectious disease yet! What's the delay? And more importantly, what am I supposed to do with all of these surgical masks I bought last year?"
Excellent questions. First, the delay is over, it's here now -- and it's known as Zika. And second, maybe use them when you're mowing the lawn? 'Cause you're not going to need them with this disease, even if you're traveling to a hotspot.
Here's what you need to know about Zika.
Zika? Sounds like a Swedish pop band.
If only. Zika is a virus carried by the Aedes mosquito, which if you often do well on the "Mosquitos" category on Jeopardy!, you know is also the insect responsible for spreading dengue fever and chikungunya. First discovered in Uganda in 1947, the most notable outbreak of Zika took place in 2007 on the Micronesian island of Yap; 75% of the population became infected. In May 2015, the first case was reported in Northeastern Brazil, and it's from this area that the current epidemic began. Over the last eight months, Zika has spread to 21 countries, including:
Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, and Venezuela.
As of publish time, cases have now been reported in eight US states (including Florida, Texas, and most recently, Arkansas and Virginia) as a result of infected people returning from South America. The World Health Organization has predicted that Zika will quickly spread to every country in the Western Hemisphere that has Aedes mosquitoes -- which is every country except Canada and Chile. So yeah, that winter vacation to Edmonton is looking a whole lot more appealing.
While symptoms of the disease are reportedly unpleasant, they are not fatal. In fact, only about one in five people who get Zika even show symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Patients don’t typically require much medical treatment and usually recover within a week.