In 2014, the spread of the Ebola virus became a leading headline. Horrifying pictures of corpses and the living lying in bodily fluids covering hospital floors circulated the news networks, and the number of related deaths just kept climbing. West Africa was overwhelmed by the disease, and a lack of proper medical services left many to fate. Some feared Ebola would make its way past American safeguards, and that a similar epidemic would occur here. However, the United States almost completely avoided the virus, and Ebola slowed to a halt on headline news.
The Zika virus has become the next household name. Though it does not kill its host, pregnancies by infected parents have largely resulted in a condition called microcephaly, in which the babies are born with abnormally small heads and a large chance of brain damage. The hosts’ symptoms, which involve headaches, joint pain and vomiting are mild and not terribly discernible from lesser viruses.
The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and is sexually transmittable. Pregnant women are advised to completely avoid Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and surrounding territories. In affected territories, women have been advised to delay any plans for pregnancy until a solution is found. If carriers aren’t at risk unless they’re planning a pregnancy, can the Zika virus truly be ranked among the list of virus scares?
Whether or not a virus is ‘scary’ in the first place greatly depends on what moves you. I remember many shaking their head at any mention of Ebola. They’d explain that it would never make it to the States and that people were worrying too much. Although the possibility of a United States outbreak was largely debated, the idea that a virus wouldn’t bother someone unless they specifically were afflicted by it was disheartening. You’d hope the purpose of the news was to spread awareness of the disease and to promote aid. Only a cynic could look at the tragic images from West Africa and interpret them as “warning, this could be your town next!”
What’s important to remember about classifying a ‘doomsday’ virus is that doomsday scenarios are different for everyone. When a son loses their parents to Ebola, or a lover loses their partner to AIDS, that’s their end-of-world moment. When a mother is told their child will grow up with microcephaly, and not healthy like they had always wanted and dreamed of, it doesn’t necessarily matter to them whether or not the disease will affect anyone else.
One could argue that the virus only keeps people from having children and that it’s not truly worthy of a scare. However, Zika negates many people’s freedoms to have children, in the same way AIDS denied many their freedoms. Though it may not wipe out the planet, any virus that forces someone to be cautious and greatly limits their choices should be considered “life threatening.”
Although these mosquitoes live on both sides of the border, a difference of nations’ lifestyles leaves the United States much less vulnerable than Mexico. Thanks to air conditioning and screens, there is little chance that mosquitoes will infect many north of the border. That is comforting, but shouldn’t be the end of the States’ interests in stopping the epidemic elsewhere.