Information is one way to confront a threat to public health. The exaggerated reaction seen throughout the country to the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa is a good example of what cannot happen this time around with the emergence of Zika.
We know that the virus, spread by a mosquito, is not deadly. An infected adult will suffer from mild symptoms for up to a week, including headaches, fever, conjunctivitis and body ache, among others. Still, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a “global health emergency” a few days ago due to its fast spread throughout Mexico, Central and South America.
Pregnant women are most vulnerable to the illness, as a connection has been drawn between the mosquito, the virus and cases of microcephaly – presenting small heads and brain damage – in newborn babies. Most of these have appeared in Brazil, where the largest number of cases has been reported. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued a call to pregnant women to refrain from traveling to the affected countries for the moment.
It is of utmost important that the Latino immigrant community in the U.S. follows this advice. It is necessary to take responsibility and postpone unnecessary trips to the region. So far, the U.S. and its territories have reported 51 people infected. Except for one case, in which a person is believed to have caught the virus via sexual contact with a carrier, all others were infected while traveling abroad.
Federal authorities are closely following the possibility of widespread contagion throughout the country, as the mosquito in question can be found in California, Florida and Texas. However, they consider this unlikely because in the U.S. the insect does not transmit dengue and other similar illnesses the way it does in poorer regions.
This time around, it is in the hands of Latin American immigrants to commit to acting responsibly and follow the recommendations of health authorities. This is the way for all of us to combat Zika.