Disease— the awful word that alarms and unnerves us, stirring our world into weeks of hysteria and horror—has nonetheless proved to be humanity’s toughest, yet unpredictable enemy of all time. Even today with our advances in technology and sophisticated knowledge, we still have not been able to truly protect ourselves from the constant threat of viral infections.
And mid-2016, here we come; it’s the outbreak of the disease, once again.
1) Zika Virus
In May 2015, Zika virus was reported in Brazil, the first local case in the Americas. Primarily transmitted through mosquitoes or sex, there is no found treatment for Zika yet.
On top of the symptoms of fever, conjunctivitis, rash, and joint pain, a sudden surge in microcephaly cases has sparked a major concern. Microcephaly is when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, leading to underdeveloped brain functions fatal to life, or intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Just in Brazil, a total of 4,908 cases of microcephaly was confirmed, along with the 91,387 registered cases, according to Reuters. But it isn’t a local Brazil problem anymore. The WHO has declared it as a “public health emergency of international concern,” where “52 countries reported outbreak from 2015 onwards.”
“There are 18,611 confirmed Zika cases in the U.S” reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But recently, in late July, the first local transmission of Zika virus within the United States has occurred in Miami, Florida. Four people in Miami, all of whom had never been to Zika-affected countries, are believed to have been infected through local mosquitoes. So far, the number has risen to “56 locally transmitted cases of Zika virus in Florida” as further stated by CNN.
And with this, despite protests by angry residents, the “Zika aerial spraying” was conducted just last Friday over Miami beach. Dibrom is the main chemical ingredient of the Naled insecticide, sprayed in tiny, airborne droplets that instantly kill mosquitoes in their flight.
But at the same time, there have been major ramifications to the environment and health. Especially for the residents, there is a higher risk for genetic mutation,where in the presence of sunlight or water, Naled degrades to dichlorvos, a toxic chemical.
Not only this, the aerial spraying has resulted in a drastic environmental loss in South Carolina, where more than 3 million bees were killed.
South Carolina beekeeper Juanita Stanley declared, “This is crazy. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut. The devastation that it has already caused is beyond comprehension. We can’t live without these honeybees” (CNN).
It isn’t over. The Broward County Mayor Marty Kiar has announced that the “zika aerial spraying will be conducted Monday morning in five Broward County municipalities — Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac and Margate” (ABC News), but with an alternative, preventative use of VectoBac WDG, utilizing BTI as the active ingredient that is different from the controversial use of Naled. BTI is an organic material naturally found in the ground, thus safer for the environment, though the only question now is how effective this would prove to be.
Likewise, it is a shock to what extent the Zika virus is creating an upheaval all over the world.
A waterborne, gastrointestinal infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea, cholera can be transmitted by contaminated water or food. But it is usually most common in dilapidated regions with poor, unclean sanitation and water supplies, such as African countries. Still luckily, unlike the Zika virus, Cholera does have vaccines for treatment.
Since the beginning of the year, over 500 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed, and the infection has even reached the western Capital city of Kinshasa (African News). Not only DRC, there are yet numerous other areas currently suffering from this disease, mostly due to the impoverished state where vaccination is not available. “As of September 6, 2016, a total of 1762 cholera cases, including 26 deaths had been reported from five states: Juba, Terekeka, Jonglei, Eastern Lakes and Imatong” according to WHO.
To our terror, reported cases of Cholera have suddenly emerged in our country, South Korea. A first case in 15 years, three people who have all consumed seafood, were infected with cholera in Geoje Island. The fourth patient was reported to have contracted during his trip to Philippines. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is nonetheless conducting further investigation on how cholera had appeared.
But ironically, it is not just Zika or cholera that is directly affecting our world today. Currently, Malaria is still on the rise, with more than 1.3 million malaria cases in Africa (WHO), along with Measles, Meningitis, Dengue, Chikungunya, and so many more. Just because we are not experiencing Malaria, does not mean it’s an unimportant matter; afterall, there are people out there who suffer and die just because they lack the few dollars for Malaria vaccination.
“Many people, most of them in tropical countries of the Third World, die of preventable, curable diseases.… Malaria, tuberculosis, acute lower-respiratory infections…” (Ken Silverstein, Millions for Viagra. Pennies for Diseases of the Poor)
For all KISians; do you remember the dramatic moment, two years ago, when the school officially cancelled our Ed. Trip, plus a whole week of final exams due to MERs? Or during 2014 to 2015, the Ebola that had swept African countries, caused “two-thirds of Americans to panic” (Washington Post), even obtaining the name “Fearbola”?
It’s ironic how until we directly face these constant bursts of disease, we fail to notice the everyday disaster on other regions of the world that desperately need our help, right now.
-Sammie Kim (’18)