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Talking Bodies

Lasso staffer explains why you should not be worried about the Zika virus in Texas

Amanda Hall
Amanda Hall

Amanda Hall, Reporter

At least once a week, there is new information out about the Zika virus epidemic in South America. This information presented by the news is laced with worry. If a reader did not know better, he or she could be unnecessarily worried about the Zika virus reaching the U.S. With proper mosquito control and prevention, the threat of Zika is slim in the U.S.

Immunologist and Assistant Professor at TWU Dr. Laura Hanson said in an interview: “The biggest impact [of the Zika virus] to TWU students will be psychological rather than physical.” Her argument is that the Zika virus, transmitted primarily through the Aedes species mosquito, should have no bigger impact in the U.S. than Dengue fever and Chikungunya, also transmitted through the same mosquito.

The U.S. practices robust mosquito control and is in a different environment than the areas most affected in South America. A simple factor, such as having air conditioning, can reduce the rate of mosquito bites. Several other factors play into whether or not there will be a local outbreak in the U.S.

Color enhanced Zika virus under transmission electron microscope. The Zika virus, in blue, can be transmitted through mosquito bites and unprotected sex with infected males.
Color enhanced Zika virus under transmission electron microscope. The Zika virus, in blue, can be transmitted through mosquito bites and unprotected sex with infected males.

Assistant Director of Health Promotions Sonia Redwine advises students to stay updated on local changes and follow mosquito control preventions. To reduce your risk, use insect repellents that contain DEET, wear clothes that cover large portions of skin, check your yard for standing water and drain it, and reduce time spent outside during dusk and dawn, when mosquitos are most active.

Safe sex using male or female condoms should also be employed as preventive measures. It was suspected in 2008 that the Zika virus could be sexually transmitted. Now, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states the Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners though semen. The virus remains present in semen longer than it does in blood, though it is still unknown how much longer.

As far as the birth defect, microcephaly, goes, the causes are still unknown. Microcephaly is correlated with the Zika virus.  Hanson says they can’t rule out pesticides or genetics yet. If not applied with proper precautions, some birth defects could be attributed to the use of pesticides. Other viruses, such as rubella, are known to cause birth defects, so it could be possible that Zika also causes microcephaly. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, the CDC recommends that you speak to your health care provider regarding Zika.

For updates about the Zika virus, follow TWU Student Health Services on Twitter: @healthytwu and Facebook: TWU Student Health Services.

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