It’s unlikely that you’ve gone this long without hearing something about the Zika virus. Although it doesn’t appear to be as daunting as Ebola was a few years ago, fellow hypochondriacs are obsessing over the fear of being bit by a mosquito infected with this virus that originated in Zika Forest, Uganda all the way back in 1947. But do we really know what this virus is? Or what it’s capable of?
According to the CDC, the Zika virus is passed from an infected mosquito. It can be passed from an expecting mother to her child, which can cause serious birth defects. Additionally, it’s passed through sex. There is also no known cure, although lawmakers are trying to change that with legislation that could pass funding for a vaccine. In the United States, there have only been 185 locally acquired cases. However, there have been over 4,000 travel related cases.
It appears the Zika virus has become a more prevalent issue with women, seeing as expecting mothers who have the virus can infect their child. Some cases have shown severe brain damage in infants and even death. But what are we doing to help prevent this from happening? According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, President Obama requested Congress to grant $1.9 billion for emergency funds in response to the outbreak of the Zika virus both domestically and internationally. This funding would help with research along with creating vaccines to combat this virus. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to make a decision regarding this issue. Both Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Marco Rubio have vocalized the importance of funding this issue due to the threat of a potential outbreak. Other government officials in places like Ecuador state that “women wanting to postpone pregnancy should have access to a comprehensive range of reversible, long- or short-acting contraceptive options to the full extent of the law.” Experts also recommend more research in public health and vaccines that can help with women who are already expecting.
Although Congress hasn’t passed any funding yet, the CDC has provided over $194 million of its $222 million budget to fight the Zika virus. According to The New York Times, Florida has received $35 million in funding which has mainly been used towards killing mosquitos. With funding already depleting, Republicans have proposed a $1.1 billion package for Zika virus relief, however it would be at the cost of Planned Parenthood losing funding for contraceptive care, which helps prevent the virus from being transmitted sexually. Essentially, it’s a catch-22. We can’t fund the virus using money that would be taking away from a women’s health center, yet we can’t risk the virus growing stronger; especially when it’s not clear how prominent it will be. So what can be done?
First, you can get educated. Even though the chances are slim that the virus would infect you, there are still precautions to take. The CDC advises people who are in areas where the virus is prevalent to wear mosquito spray along with long sleeve shirts and pants. Also, always wear a condom when you have sex to prevent yourself from transmitting the virus sexually. The symptoms are mild but include fever, rash, and red eyes.
Next, you can donate. Visit www.Savethechildren.org or www.map.org/zika among many other organizations that are doing their part to help women and get this virus under control before it potentially gets worse.