The Zika virus scare has taken people everywhere by surprise. For most of the population, being bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus would not be a big deal. Some show no symptoms at all. Those who are affected might experience a fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, headache and a general malaise. These conditions, usually mild, may last for a couple of days or up to a week.
However, for some it may be worse. In Brazil there has been a rise in Guillain-Barré syndrome, seemingly connected with the Zika virus, but the study is not complete on the exact causes.
Far worse than that though, is the possible connection of the Zika virus with babies born with microcephaly, a medical condition in which the brain develops abnormally resulting in a smaller than normal head, usually resulting in intellectual disability and other related disorders.
Up to now the only preventative measure has been to encourage mosquito repellant and protective clothing whenever out of doors. But now Oxitec, a British firm, has genetically modified the type of mosquito that carries not only Zika but also dengue fever and chikunguny so that the offspring of these mosquitos will not live.
This is still in the developmental stages, but the early results are promising. In testing on Grand Cayman Island they were able to reduce the mosquito population by 80%. In 2011 another test was done in Brazil which reduced the mosquitos by 80-95%. Very encouraging results.
This year the government in Brazil, where most of the birth defects have occurred, has allowed the company to use this method to try and combat the Zika virus in one town in Brazil.
But is it too little too late? The damage has already been done to countless families throughout the Central and South America. And who knows where it will spread next?
But for right now the focus is to reduce the number of babies born with microcephaly and any solution to that problem will be welcomed.