Zika, the Baby Killer
Zika has caused numerous baby deaths and many more baby brain damages since last year. Zika has been around for a long while, but all this while Zika only stayed in Uganda and its neighbouring countries.
Last year, Zika decided to travel, and now Zika has visited the American continent. The thing that makes Zika so deadly is, parents and other adults won't even know if Zika has entered their homes. Not until it's too late. Coz Zika is slick. Till now, government agencies can only "suspect" that Zika caused so many infant sickness and death. Nobody can prove it for certain, YET.
Zika is a virus. It spreads through a vector known to all Malaysians, the Aedes mosquito. But unlike Dengue, patients who contract the virus show very mild or NO symptoms at all! Meaning most patients don't even get sick!
Err...isn't that actually good? Well yes and no. The good thing is adults becoming very sick is something rare. The bad thing, is that babies born to pregnant ladies infected with the Zika virus is very likely to develop microcephaly, or small heads. And you won't know this until it's in the late stages of pregnancy, and you are faced with a choice of delivering a baby that will be marred for life, or an abortion. I know, it sucks.
Microcephaly not only makes your baby look weird, but your baby's brain functions are severely affected by the birth defect. In severe cases, the babies might die due to impairment of vital parts of the brain. In other cases, Microcephaly causes the baby to develop poor intellectual abilities, damaged motor functions including speech and movement.
In Brazil, The rate of Microcephaly went up more than 23 fold after the Zika virus was detected in the country. That led to scientists coming to suspect that Zika Virus is the main culprit causing this sudden increase. However, there is still no way now to prove it.
Things are getting so bad that the government of Brazil is debating whether to pass laws to allow for abortions of their citizens affected by this disease. Also, they issued a very peculiar warning to all young couples -- Don't get pregnant till 2018. I guess the condom industry will be seeing a big boom this year.
So are human beings going to stop having babies and start dying out because of this disease? Is there any other way?
Well, there is, but it's just not perfect.
1. We can eradicate the Aedes mosquito. (Malaysians will be laughing HA HA...good luck). We've been trying to get rid of this deadly insect for ages, and for the past few years, dengue has GONE UP sharply in Malaysia. Fogging and other clean-up campaigns have proven to be futile. Basically, we have been on the losing end on the war on Aedes for a long time.
In the future: Things may be a bit better if the genetically modified male mosquitos (which are sterile) are released into the wild. Females continue to mate with these male mosquitos, but the eggs are fertile, and should reduce the the number of mosquitos drastically.
2. We can vaccinate our population. This is very viable, BUT....it will be years until the vaccines are widely available. Besides, the anti-vaxxers will be there to foil a lot of these efforts.
In the future: If the epidemic becomes uncontrollable, we foresee at least all females will be vaccinated. Something like Rubella vaccines?
3. We can limit travelling. It's easier said than done. And what happens when the virus spreads to your country? Move to the desert? Hence we feel that this is a very temporary and non-sustainable method. Nevertheless, it IS not advisable for pregnant ladies to travel to all affected areas for now.
4. We can prevent ourselves from being bitten by mosquitos. This is actually quite achievable, as we have a big range of mosquito repellents readily available on our shelves. Tricky part is, if we forget to apply the repellent, we are immediately at risk.
5. And lastly, we can help educate others via social media. If there is one thing that spreads faster than viruses, its information spread through social media. So do your part in our fight against the Zika virus :)