Students take precautions against Zika virus with spring break approaching

(Illustration by Carly Adams)

As many students are heading off on spring break next week, some may be wondering what they can do to protect themselves from the Zika virus that is spreading through the Southern Hemisphere.

“With no cure or vaccine for the virus, the best way to protect yourself is purchasing bug repellent and wear it according to the label,” Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute, said.

The most common transmittance of the virus is through the Aedes mosquitos, who transmit the Zika virus through the blood of their victims. The virus has also been sexually transmitted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Transmission and risks” page under “Zika Virus.”

The Aedes mosquito is currently infecting a vast number of people with the Zika virus in the Southern Hemisphere, but it is anticipated to spread through the U.S., Higgs said.

“I am going on a cruise to the Caribbean and we stop in Mexico for a little bit,” Henry Bins, freshman in chemical engineering, said. “I am not very concerned for myself, but I am worried more for my sister, mom, aunts, grandma and female cousin because they might be affected more than me.”

Bins is not the only person concerned about safety traveling through these regions. Olympic athlete Hope Solo is considering not going to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil over concerns about the Zika virus, according to the Feb. 9 Sports Illustrated article “Solo: As of now, I wouldn’t go to Olympics over Zika,” by Grant Wahl.

This virus can cause fever, skin rashes, pink eye, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headaches, according to the World Health Organization article “Zika virus.” These symptoms can last two to seven days.

“It does concern me that it could be transferred so easily, but the infection itself doesn’t seem to be that serious with the symptoms and effects it causes for people who are not pregnant,” Janelle Debus, freshman in nutrition and kinesiology, said.

The CDC article said the Zika virus could be linked to microcephaly in newborns, which can lead to abnormally small heads, birth defects and unsuccessful pregnancies.

Due to concerns regarding these potential birth problems, women are being advised to take extra precautions in some regions where the disease is spreading rapidly.

“In El Salvador, where the disease is spreading rapidly, women are being encouraged not to conceive until the year 2018,” Higgs said.

Some students who plan to go to Southern destinations for spring break have also discussed taking precautions against the virus.

“I am headed to Alabama for spring break and plan on wearing sunscreen as well as bug spray throughout the trip to protect against the risk,” Lindsay May, sophomore in biology, said.