The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has called Zika “possibly the scariest virus since HIV” for various reasons, including that it is “all but proven” to cause birth defects.
Other viruses are known to harm neonates. For example, genital herpes can be fatal to a newborn, but this can be overcome by choosing a C-section over a natural birth, the ACSH says. Rubella (German measles) also causes birth defects, but an effective vaccine has been available since 1969. But neither virus is spread by mosquitoes, like the Zika virus, which is why the current scare is different and why Zika is still a big unknown, the ACSH notes.
The Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, which prefer warm climates. For people living in cooler areas, however, a key, unanswered question is: will Culex, a family of mosquitoes common to the entire U.S., be able to transmit Zika virus? Culex is a carrier of West Nile virus, the ACSH points out.
The council lists other reasons why Zika might be the scariest virus since HIV:
Infectious-disease expert Dr. Paul Offit, a trustee at the ACSH, offered his view of the Zika virus, as follows:
In related news, House Republicans said President Obama’s administration should use $2.7 billion in unspent funds earmarked for the Ebola outbreak instead of asking for $1.8 million in new funding to reduce the spread of Zika, according to an article in the Washington Times. In a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that Congress could replace the Ebola funding later, if needed.