Zika virus spreads, causes global fear

Published: February 25, 2016

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / THE AEDES aegypti, the mosquito which carries the Zika virus, occupies a wide ecological niche. It’s habitat spreads throughout the southern hemisphere and parts of the northern. The mosquito even lives as far north as Northeast Pennsylvania. The wide range of the aedes aegypti worries experts who fear the virus will quickly become a pandemic.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / THE AEDES aegypti, the mosquito which carries the Zika virus, occupies a wide ecological niche. It’s habitat spreads throughout the southern hemisphere and parts of the northern. The mosquito even lives as far north as Northeast Pennsylvania. The wide range of the aedes aegypti worries experts who fear the virus will quickly become a pandemic.

MATTHEW DAVIS
Staff Writer

The Zika virus outbreak has been labeled a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization in the past few weeks. The infection itself is spread through mosquito bites and has caused a division between ecologists and people wanting to eradicate the mosquito completely.

Since the Zika virus is spread through the mosquito, it is likely that it will spread globally to places such as Africa, The Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and North America. The Zika virus is spread from mother to newborn while the fetus is still developing in the womb and causes symptoms such as a smaller brain size and in severe cases, paralysis has also been seen.

In a recent article ion the New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. outlines a shocking new policy being used by many of the countries stricken with the Zika virus. Government officials have been making speeches warning women to not get pregnant and to hold off on pregnancy until the number of Zika infections goes down. The Brazilian army has also been ordered to go door-to-door in order to hand out pamphlets so that the message reaches as many women as possible. This method has stirred some controversy, but some experts believe this may be a great way to stop the spread of the infection and “allow immunity to build.” There currently is no vaccine for the Zika virus, and by the looks of it, a vaccine is not likely to be ready for quite some time.

There are also many people, including The University’s Rev. Timothy Cadigan, S.J., who feel that the mosquito should be eradicated completely into extinction. Experts believe that the mosquito fills a niche in ecosystems that another insect could fill almost immediately.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / AEDES AEGYPTI, also known as the yellow fever mosquito is inducing worldwide fear as they spread.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / AEDES AEGYPTI, also known as the yellow fever mosquito is inducing worldwide fear as they spread.

Recently, genetically modified mosquitoes have been used that only produce male offspring. In a few generations, this would eradicate the mosquito from certain areas. According to the World Health Organization, a child dies every minute from malaria. Wiping out the mosquito would also eradicate most, if not all of the diseases it is known to carry. As recent as Tuesday, Brazil has begun using radiation in order to kill mosquito populations.

The radiation causes the females to lay eggs that will not develop and sterilizes males. On the other side of the argument, ecologists call it “arrogant.” Do we have the right to decide which animals deserve to live and which deserve to die? Also, do we know the full effect of the mosquito eradication? The species that takes the mosquitoes spot in the ecosystem may increase competition among other species in the ecosystem and may cause other animals to have a decline in numbers.
We have to remember that the mosquito is not the problem. The problem is the diseases that they carry. The United States was able to eradicate malaria in just four years without getting rid of the mosquito, but places like Africa have had a more difficult time due to funding. As for now, the mosquito will be giving you those annoying, itchy, red bumps on your skin for some time to come.

Contact the writer: matthew.davis@scranton.edu

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