At Saturday’s Republican presidential primary debate, Dr. Ben Carson asserted he would be open to quarantining individuals returning from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics if they exhibited symptoms of having contracted the Zika virus, calling Latin America’s Zika outbreak “obviously a big deal.”
“We’ve gotten evidence that there can been active viruses in other bodily fluids like saliva and urine. So, this is going to be, obviously, a big deal,” Dr. Carson said of the Zika virus, in response to ABC News debate moderator Martha Raddatz asking Dr. Carson if quarantining individuals that may have come into contact with the virus was “going too far.”
Asserting that the Zika outbreak in Latin America was “going to be, obviously, a big deal,” Dr. Carson advised that “if we have evidence that they are infected, and that there is evidence that that infection can spread by something that they’re doing, yes.” He discouraged, however, “willy-nilly” quarantining.
The prevalence of Zika virus in Brazil, skyrocketing since December 2015, has triggered alarm in the medical community. The World Health Organization has declared the Zika outbreak a “public health emergency,” and the National Institutes of Health a “pandemic.”
Given the millions expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro in August for the 2016 Summer Olympics, experts are warning that the virus could become a global pandemic. NYU’s Dr. Arthur Caplan compared families attending the Olympics to visiting Chernobyl, suggesting that only “Business, money, investment in the infrastructure” can explain why officials have not postponed the Olympic games on Breitbart News Daily.
Dr. Carson urged a “rapid response” approach to the Zika outbreak. “We need a rapid response for ebola, we need rapid response for Zika… These are the kinds of things that the NIH, the CDC, can be very effective in. We need to give the the appropriate support for those kind of things,” he concluded.
The hardest-hit areas of Brazil are confirming a new Zika case every two hours. The scope of the danger regarding widespread prevalence of Zika in humans has been the subject of little research. The symptoms of Zika contamination are typically mild: fevers, conjunctivitis, and other symptoms similar but less intense than those of Dengue fever. An estimated 80 percent of those contaminated exhibit no symptoms.
Scientists in Brazil discovered in December, however, an astronomical surge in the number of diagnosed cases of microcephaly in newborns, a deformity in which infants are born with skulls too small for their brains, causing severe neurological damage. Brazil has documented over 4,000 cases of microcephaly suspected of having ties to the Zika virus. Thus, experts have warned pregnant women, or women who may become pregnant, have the most to fear from the virus.
In addition to the threat of microcephaly, an unknown percentage of adults are at risk for developing Guillain-Barré syndrome after contracting Zika, a debilitating disorder that causes severe muscle pains, paralysis, and, in some cases, death. Colombia has confirmed three Guillain-Barré deaths tied to Zika so far.
Very little is known about the potential of Zika spreading from human to human. Almost all known cases of Zika found in human bloodstreams is the product of bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, found in every country of the Western hemisphere save Chile and Canada. Recently, medical experts in Texas have confirmed the first known case of Zika transmission through sexual contact, in an American resident who engaged in sexual activity with a Zika patient that had contracted the virus in Brazil. Additionally, Brazilian scientists have found traces of live Zika virus in the saliva and urine of patients who have been diagnosed with Zika, a sign that person-to-person infection may be possible through these bodily fluids.
While Latin America has become the epicenter of the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned Europe to prepare for a potential outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have warned expecting couples who may have been exposed to Zika in the United States to abstain from sexual activity.
American officials have begun preparing for a potential Zika outbreak as the winter nears its end, particularly in southern states and territories. Governor Rick Scott of Florida has declared a state of emergency due to the overwhelming presence of Aedes aegypti in the state, as has the governor of Puerto Rico. The state of Texas has confirmed 10 Zika cases this season.