The annual security briefing delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has added the Zika virus to the list of infections diseases threatening the United States, on the same list as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Ebola.
“Infectious diseases and vulnerabilities in the global supply chain for medical countermeasures will continue to pose a danger to US national security in 2016,” says the report.
After mentioning perennial concerns like MERS and Ebola, the report adds Zika to the list, discussing the new viral threat at length:
Zika virus, an emerging infectious disease threat first detected in the Western Hemisphere in 2014, is projected to cause up to 4 million cases in 2016; it will probably spread to virtually every country in the hemisphere.
Although the virus is predominantly a mild illness, and no vaccine or treatment is available, the Zika virus might be linked to devastating birth defects in children whose mothers were infected during pregnancy.
The report notes that developing nations have difficulty controlling infectious disease outbreaks, while urbanization and the use of previously undeveloped land for farming make such outbreaks more likely.
An interesting footnote: TruNews notes that some researchers have proposed using genetic engineering or “gene editing” techniques to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika and other diseases — in essence, by programming the mosquitoes to produce only male offspring until their population dies out — but Clapper’s report also specifies gene editing as a potential national security threat, because it can be abused to create biological weapons.