Zika: Misguided paranoia

Zika is spread from human to human via mosquito, childbirth and sexual contact. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The first locally transmitted infection of the Zika virus was confirmed in Pinellas County on Tuesday, much to the dismay of those living in the Tampa area. 

However, the appearance of one infection does not warrant the paranoia that has resulted from it.

While the threat should be taken seriously, immediately rushing into panic mode would be jumping the gun. 

Scientists, while cautioning about the possible birth defects caused by the virus, have also stated they do not expect widespread contagion in the U.S. 

The mosquitoes responsible for carrying the virus — called Aedes aegypti — fly short distances at a speed much slower than many other mosquitoes. 

“In the United States, where people are more spread out and often sealed up in air-conditioned houses or cars, even if an infected mosquito manages to bite someone, it is unlikely that the insect will live long enough or fly far enough to bite another,” according to the New York Times.

As long as people take precautions to get rid of and avoid standing water, wear repellent and use condoms during sexual intercourse, the odds of contamination are slim.

The emergence of a confirmed infection in Pinellas County. Led the Florida Department of Health to conduct door-to-door testing in the local area in an attempt to stay ahead of the issue. 

By establishing where the harmful mosquitoes are located, officials can work on a focused line of attack rather than wasting time and resources dousing the entire state in chemicals.

Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that Pinellas County Mosquito Control (PCMC) and State health officials have begun “aggressive” spraying in the possibly infected areas.

However, aggressively dumping pesticides into the environment is not a solution that should be utilized more than absolutely necessary. The spraying in Miami has proven to be semi-effective and will hopefully have similar effects in Tampa.  

USF attempted to get ahead of the issue by sending an email Wednesday morning to all students warning them about the virus and offering suggestions on how to prevent infection.

“USF staff is working with Hillsborough County Mosquito Control on mitigation techniques and solutions that could be implemented,” Adam Freeman, USF Media and Public Affairs Manager, said.

A large part of the solution is simply identifying the standing water on campus, like Castor Beach, MLK reflection pond, Lake Behnke, the pond at Simmons Park near JP, not to mention the many retention ponds scattered throughout campus.

USF also created a website, usf.edu/zika, which connects students to Zika prevention resources, updated news coverage of the issue and offers answers by faculty experts to common questions regarding the virus.

USF groups such as Environmental Health and Safety and Emergency Management have plans to meet with Hillsborough County Mosquito Control soon to develop further steps, according to Freeman.

Essentially, students who wear bug spray and practice safe sex shouldn’t harbor too much anxiety over becoming infected. 

Those experiencing a fever, joint pain, red eyes or a rash should go to a doctor to be tested. 

Everyone else should devote their stress to juggling classes, work and what is left of their social lives. 

Yes, Zika is a serious issue, but like the Swine Flu, the majority of Floridians are not ever going to be affected. 


Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.