Quantcast
Climate

14 Cases to 4 Million: 10 Things You Should Know About Zika Virus

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency Monday as the disease continues "spreading explosively" and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.

The health organization has only declared a public health emergency three times before for polio, swine flu and Ebola. Few people had ever heard of Zika before last month, and according to NPR's Here & Now, "The mosquito-borne virus was known to cause mild symptoms like rashes and fevers, but in most infected people—four out of five—Zika didn’t produce any symptoms at all."

But last month, Brazilian health officials reported more than 4,000 cases in the past year of infants born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect causing small heads and under-developed brains, and they believed the defects were linked to Zika.

NPR says the virus has spread to at least 24 countries with at least 30 cases in the U.S., all of them from people who contracted the disease after traveling to high risk areas.

Officials in countries, such as Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica and El Salvador, are advising women to avoid pregnancy until the outbreak has passed. The Brazilian government even enlisted 220,000 members of the military to go door-to-door to help eradicate mosquitos.

And research shows that climate change, as Bill McKibben put it, is "inexorably" expanding mosquitoes’ range.

TIME reported:

For thousands of years, humans have taken every precaution to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, from Malaria to Zika. But while techniques for fighting the insects have improved dramatically over time, scientists say long-term climate change could soon make protecting humans from mosquitoes much more difficult.

The link between climate change and mosquito-borne illness centers around how rising temperatures may expand the area in which mosquitoes can thrive. Most such illnesses can only be transmitted at temperatures between approximately 16°C (61°F) and 38°C (100°F), according to a World Health Organization report. Perhaps more significantly, the time it takes for mosquitoes to develop decreases significantly the closer temperatures are to around 30°C (86°F). The average global temperature is expected to rise by at least 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 even if countries take dramatic action to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. In some areas, that shift will be much more dramatic.

Shifts in precipitation levels caused by climate change could also have an effect on where mosquitoes can successfully reproduce. Mosquitoes breed in still water habitats and remain for a week after heavy rainfall.

Read page 1

Still, researchers cautioned that it's hard to predict how global warming will impact mosquito populations in any given area. But most experts agree that, as with most impacts of climate change, the poor are the most vulnerable.

The disease's rapid spread has caused alarm among the general public. To learn more about the virus, Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson spoke with Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Here are 10 facts about Zika virus from Weaver:

1. The Zika virus was discovered in Uganda, Africa in 1947, but it is believed that the virus existed much earlier than that.

2. It was discovered when looking for yellow fever in monkeys and was found in mosquitoes in 1948.

3. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on animals infected with the virus.

4. After mosquitoes contract the virus, there is an incubation period in which the virus spreads through the mosquito, into salivary glands.

5. It is unsure as of yet if the Zika virus can be spread from a mosquito to its progeny.

6. Between the discovery and 2007, only 14 human infections of Zika virus were documented.

7. Studies conducted on populations in Africa and Asia found high levels of immunity towards the Zika virus, suggesting previous undocumented transmission.

8. It’s expected to take a few years to develop a vaccine or therapeutics for Zika.

9. The current strategy to manage Zika is to reduce the mosquito population, including clearing stagnant water where the mosquitoes breed.

10. The mosquito that carries Zika virus, aedes aegypti, prefers to be indoors and bite humans throughout the day.

Listen to Scott Weaver speak to Jeremy Hobson on NPR's Here & Now:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Zika Virus ‘Spreading Explosively’ in Americas

Cancer Prevention Needs Attention Too: What if We Weren’t Exposed to 80,000 Toxic Chemicals Every Day?

Michael Moore: 10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy, But I Will

Erin Brockovich to Stephen Colbert: ‘Flint, Michigan Is the Tip of the Iceberg’

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa takes samples at a reef in Flower Garden Banks. Jesse Cancelmo / Rice University

Hurricane Harvey Runoff Threatens Coral Reefs

Hurricane Harvey's record rains didn't just unleash a torrent of floodwaters into the Gulf of Mexico—this freshwater could be harming coral reefs which require saltwater to live, according to new research.

After Harvey dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas, researchers detected a 10 percent drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Keep reading... Show less

Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Keep reading... Show less
Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spews Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

Big Food Is Worried About Millennials Avoiding Animal Products

By Nathan Runkle

Hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies recently gathered in North Carolina for the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit to play golf and figure out how to make you eat more animals.

One session focused on marketing chicken to millennials. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained to the crowd that millennials are "lost" and need to be "inspired and coached." His reasoning? Because there are now "58 ways to gender identify on Facebook." Also, because most millennial women take nude selfies, the chicken industry needs to be just as "naked" and transparent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Strange Days: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland hard with full hurricane-like fury on Monday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage and power outages. At least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars, and The Irish Times said at least 360,000 ESB Networks customers lost power in Ireland because of the storm.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
PBouman / Shutterstock

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Trump's Approval Rating on Hurricane Response Sinks 20 Points After Puerto Rico

President Trump's approval rating for overseeing the federal government's response to hurricanes fell by 20 points after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed.

Trump's approval rating for responding to hurricanes Harvey and Irma stood at 64 percent in mid-September. Just a month later, the rating dropped to 44 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox