Prepared, calm approach needed in face of Zika virus

Daniel Horowitz, Staff Writer

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The Zika virus is the current disease of focus for medical experts globally. Just as people were concerned about the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, Zika is now the virus that people need to be concerned about. Despite the relatively low number of cases in the United States, the severity of Zika symptoms necessitate awareness of the facts behind the virus. Everyone must remember that preparing, not panicking, is the most effective method of fighting epidemics.

When Ebola was dominating news outlets, many sensationalized the virus to the point of public frenzy in western countries. The discussions regarding how to disconnect the U.S. from West African countries to halt the migration of Ebola became controversial, leading to more panic from the public. When it comes to Zika, however, we have seemed to learn our lesson from the Ebola scare.

Everyone reacted to Ebola the way they did because there was not much preparation for it. When an outbreak began in West Africa, there did not seem to be much attention paid to it because there did not appear to be any legitimate worry that it would spread to the U.S. Once there was risk, everyone became hysterical. No one wanted to fall victim to this unknown, violent and deadly disease.

As soon as Zika became known to the world, many governments remembered the mistakes made with Ebola. Precautions were put in place and more research was done to prepare for the possibility of Zika entering the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have explained how Zika can be transmitted and the precautions necessary to reduce chances of contracting it. For example, the CDC recommends that anyone who has traveled to any Zika-affected regions should be sure to use protection when having sex or abstain from sex altogether, since recent cases suggest Zika can be transmitted sexually.

Still, with few severe symptoms and little to no risk of death, it is easier to dismiss Zika as a threat. In fact, the largest risks posed by the virus are to pregnant women and their babies. This makes the epidemic in general serious, though isolated incidents are significantly less dire. This does not make the virus any less serious — having a plan in place for disease outbreaks is important to keep more deadly diseases like Ebola from taking root.

First, all easily transmittable diseases must be taken seriously. Just because an outbreak begins on another continent does not mean it cannot make its way over to you, especially when traveling to faraway locations is so easy. At the same time, it is important to keep a level head. Taking something seriously does not mean we need to fret over it. If we can remain calm in the face of a crisis, we can handle it in a more efficient manner. Finally, it is pertinent that we be prepared. We should adhere to the preventative measures set forth by the CDC and WHO in order to avoid contracting the Zika virus — especially since they are as simple as wearing a condom during sex.

Chances are no one at Tulane will catch the Zika virus but it does not hurt to be careful. There is no harm in educating yourself about the Zika virus in order to stay healthy. As bad as it seems, it is incredibly easy to prevent Zika. Be careful, take it seriously and, most importantly, stay calm.

Daniel is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]