“Indecision and a Virus”
A seemingly unstoppable and catastrophic virus has infiltrated our borders and instead of putting all available resources into finding solutions to the problem, our government seems to prefer to argue about funding. The Zika virus, a terrifying problem in Latin American countries, has emerged in 20 U.S. states prompting a response from the White House. President Obama recently proposed a $1.8 billion dollar emergency-funding package to assist in managing the virus, but he has only been met with arguments over where the funding will come from. Since the disease is predominantly located in Latin America, it appears that some of our congress members are hesitant to allocate the necessary funds to stopping this virus while we’re ahead.
After spending several years working in the healthcare field and studying disease prevention I have learned that prevention of disease is always smarter and more cost effective than treatment. For example, a 100$ vaccination for Mumps can prevent thousands of dollars spent in treatment. It seems obvious that preventing this disease from reaching crises proportions would be the better approach; yet, it appears our policy makers may be waiting until the shit hits the fan.
A disease needs an efficient method of transmission to cause real problems in an area. Like many deadly diseases (West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever etc.) the Zika virus’ primary method of transmission to humans is a mosquito. This mosquito, called Aedes aegypti, is currently thriving in at least a dozen U.S. states, which is a major cause for concern because if the disease spreads to the mosquitos in the U.S., it could be quickly transmitted to our population.
As if this information wasn’t troubling enough, researchers studying the virus have confirmed that the virus can also be spread via sexual transmission. A disease that is initially transmitted to humans via a living organism and then able to spread via human sexual contact. Sound familiar? You don’t have to think long to realize that this type of disease sounds very similar to HIV, which tore through the U.S. and has yet to be cured. While the Zika virus doesn’t seem to be killing people like HIV, it has been found to have other devastating effects.
Research shows that the Zika virus targets human brain cells and has been found to cause major birth defects in newborns with infected parents. The virus causes microcephaly, which means that brain and head formation are halted during gestation and babies either die before birth or are born with extremely small heads.
Aside from the apparent catastrophic effects of the virus, one of the more disturbing aspects about the virus is the fact that individuals infected with it, often display no symptoms. In addition, there is no information about how long it stays in the system or what long term effects the virus could have. As of right now, there is no cure, no treatment, and no prevention methods aside from avoiding countries with the disease and sexual contact with anyone who has been to those countries.
It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that this situation can spin out of control very quickly. Rather than approving funds to be allocated solely for managing this virus, some members of congress seem to be pushing for money to be taken from funds set aside for other diseases like Ebola. This seems a bit counterproductive to say the least.
Perhaps living in a nation with ample access to vaccinations and medicine has caused some of the leaders of our country to forget just how devastating some of these diseases can be. It was not too long ago when diseases like typhoid fever and cholera decimated our society. We were only able to overcome these diseases because of the vital research that was done to eradicate them. Neglecting Ebola to fund research for the Zika virus is downright irresponsible and could potentially lead to these diseases spreading illness and death throughout our country.
The costs of waiting to deal with this disease until it runs rampant across our nation would be catastrophic. Countless parents will lose children, and astronomical amounts of money will be spent in treatment. Now is not the time for indecisiveness and debate over funding because the virus will not wait for our leaders to be ready. We must make it our priority to invest resources into studying the Zika virus and develop methods of prevention and treatment before it is too late.