The Zika virus outbreak has gained international attention for the past three months. Even though it poses little risk for Northern Nevadans, some are feeling the ripple effect. Our contributor Luiza Vieira spoke to one of those Reno residents.
Juliana Sacoman is a researcher for the biology department at UNR. She was planning to visit her family in Brazil next month but the Zika virus changed her plans. She’s four months pregnant.
“Because there is some evidence suggesting that it might be correlated with microcephaly, they actually told me, ‘Please do not come until your baby is born.’”
Babies born with microcephaly have unusually small heads that can cause problems such as developmental delays. Researchers have not yet been able to prove what exactly causes those birth defects but there could be a link to the zika virus.
“From the scientific paper literature, there’s not such a strong link yet, and maybe it’s just matter of time until they find more information about the virus and what it does to the nervous system of the baby,” she says. “However, as a mom, it’s really hard to be that objective. You don’t want to harm your baby if there’s no need for it.”
Paulo Mesquita, is an infectious disease specialist in Brazil and advises pregnant women not to enter the country. The Brazilian medical community is working with the government to combat the virus but Mesquita says eradication will take time.
“It’s important to contain the tendency of alarmist and pessimism that happens during these types of events,” he says. “Epidemics happen cyclically everywhere around the world.”
Juliana Sacoman says that every citizen must do their part to prevent the virus from spreading but also hopes this situation will wake up the government to offer a better quality of life.
“Hopefully the Disease Control Center from Brazil would also push more so people can have more access to clean water, to sewer, and all of those things that, as a country, you actually should be providing for everyone.”
A vaccine to combat the virus is being developed but that process can take years.
Featured Image by Tu Nexo De, Flickr.