This week, the Zika virus has taken over news headlines across the globe. Zika is coming to light shortly after the great Ebola scare of 2014, leaving many to wonder if it is our next global health crisis.
The virus, which is spread to people through mosquito bites, has already been found in 24 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America. While the symptoms of the Zika virus are mild for adults, it could change the life of an unborn child.
Zika infections during early pregnancy have been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which babies have small heads and incomplete brain development. Expectant mothers are now being advised to avoid travel to the affected countries, and women living in these areas are being told to avoid getting pregnant entirely while the virus remains an issue.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the virus is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas, and cases have already been reported in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Zika virus will continue to spread and it will be difficult to determine how the virus will spread over time.
As of this morning, WHO stated that the virus is spreading explosively. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health told CNN that Zika is “a pandemic in progress” – but do you need to be worried? When a new infectious disease risk arises, the general public often perceives the risk to be much larger than it actually is. Check out the tips below to keep informed during a health pandemic:
Read past the headlines
When an outbreak occurs, the media tends to blow information out of proportion compared to what actual scientific information may indicate. They grab attention with shocking headlines that often create fear. With people always on the go, many don’t read past headlines or the 140 characters on their Twitter feeds. Do yourself a favor and keep reading to get the full story.
Research, research, research
You can even take things a step further and do your research. It is human nature to fear the unknown, but today we are lucky enough to have organizations like the CDC and WHO that offer clear communications about what is known and unknown, how the disease is transmitted and spread, who is most at risk, and how individuals who may be at risk can best protect themselves from infection.
Consult your physician
If you’re still feeling unsure about how the possible pandemic can affect you, consult your physician. They will be able to best answer questions and inform your specific situation. This is especially important for expectant mothers who are filled with questions about the quick spread of Zika and what it means in their region.
What do you think of the media’s portrayal of Zika so far? Are you taking additional steps to stay informed? Let us know in the comments below!