Teh Aedes aegypti mosquito, responsible for yellow fever, Zika and dengue.
Many of you will already know that my wife is pregnant. Our second son will be born next month. You probably also know that I live in Brazil. We moved to the tropics in October, and soon after we started hearing about Zika on the news.
At first, it was quite scary. We heard that this disease was spread by mosquitos, and that most people who were infected did not even realise it. It is basically invisible, unless you are pregnant. In that case, the worry is that it might cause very serious birth defects. There seems to have been a rise in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads (but the data is not clear).
In any case, people here take tropical diseases, like dengue and Zika, very seriously. The government has sent the army to help reduce the number of mosquitos and there is a lot of public health information. But there is also a lot of paranoia and worry. Of course, for us it was stressful too.
However, it looks like there is not a lot of evidence that Zika causes these problems in babies. Colombia or Venezuela (I can't remember which) has the second highest number of Zika cases, but no increase in birth defects. Furthermore, even though the rate of birth defects seems to have increased (maybe by as much as 50%), since the condition is very rare it means that the total number of cases is still very small (about 4,000 out of 3,000,000 births a year in Brazil, or 1.3 births in every 1,000).
It is hard to say anything right now. There is not enough reliable data. It could take years for scientists to understand the disease and its effects. We'll have to wait and see. For now, the problem is terrible for those affected, and we must be careful to keep the disease under control and make sure it does not spread to other countries. And Brazil has to think about the Olympics later this year!
Nobody in my house is freaking out yet. Luckily for us, there are not many mosquitos in our neighbourhood, and we have a lot of repellant! And it looks like my son is healthy and already has a very big head!
infected—having a disease caused by germs
birth defect—a physical problem in new babies
paranoia—an unreasonable feeling that people are trying to harm you, do not like you, etc.
furthermore—also, in addition
freak out—go crazy from worry or another strong emotion
repellant—something, like a cream or spray, to keep insects away