By: Jenny Eastland

Zika is a virus that affects, primarily, the Americas. Its symptoms include a fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. It does not usually affect people enough for them to seek professional help. It is rarely fatal, but has been linked to a birth defect called Microcephaly which causes a newborn’s brain to not develop fully.

Zika is spread by mosquitoes, which also spread deadly diseases such as Malaria. In an attempt to deter Zika from spreading, there is a proposal to start genetically modifying mosquitoes to make it so the majority are males, because females are the ones who actually do the biting which leads to the virus being spread. This is causing controversy because with only males, the species of mosquito cannot reproduce and will be completely wiped out.

It has not been proven that Zika is the cause for Microcephaly, and there is an argument that chemicals in food may be the cause. The chemical in question is called Pyriproxyfen, which is a pesticide that is added to drinking water to stop the development of mosquito larvae. While this is being taken into consideration, mosquito bites still remain as the most scientifically backed culprit.

This virus isn’t pervasive in the U.S. In fact, when asked about it, North Eugene High School Senior Ashlee Lesan-Amondson replied “the what virus?” There have been approximately 52 cases of travel-related Zika contractions in the U.S, only one of which was in Oregon.

There are simple ways of preventing the virus from getting out of hand here. Basically, don’t travel to countries with high numbers of Zika cases. If you must travel, avoid mosquito bites if possible. Mosquitos in the United States do not currently carry the virus so if you are not travelling, you have nothing to worry about.