Biological threats are linked to some of the worst TEOTWAWKI scenarios. Historically speaking, biochemical weapons and disease epidemics have caused the most deaths throughout human history.
The Black Plague killed about two thirds of the Eurasian population, most of the American Indians were killed by diseases brought by Europeans and that’s not to mention more recent uses of biochemical weapons in modern warfare. Infectious diseases can be endemic, epidemic or pandemic.
An epidemic is an unusual outbreak of an illness, usually confined within a community. Examples of recent epidemics are Influenza, EnterovirusD68 and Ebola. An endemic is a usual and expected disease located in certain areas. For instance, malaria is endemic in safari areas and many tropical countries.
A pandemic is when a disease spreads beyond borders and across communities. Examples of such pandemics are The Black Plague or The Spanish Flu of 1918, among many others.
Only recently, between 2014 and 2016 there was an Ebola epidemic in West Africa, claiming thousands of lives. In 2015 we saw the Chikungunya virus infecting millions of people. In 2016, there have been Zika outbreaks reported in Africa, Asia and now, South America. Some isolated cases were also reported in Denmark and Sweden.
This is the most recent threat to generate international turmoil. The virus targets specifically women that are either pregnant or of childbearing age. Similarly to other viruses, it travels via mosquitoes. There is little that the body’s immune system can do about it. The infected mother will only show mild flu symptoms. However the newborn is likely to be born with brain damage.
In late 2015 there were many cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil. The disease is linked with mental handicaps and can easily lead to death. Since the Zika virus arrived in Brazil in May 2015, microcephaly cases increased from the usual 150 to 3,500 per year. Recently, there have been cases reported even from Virginia to Arkansas and Hawaii. Mostly, the infected where people traveling to subtropical or tropical areas. In total the virus has spread to 25 countries so far.
The Zika virus
The Zika virus is a member of the same family as many other well known viruses. Some examples are yellow fever, Chikungunya and West Nile virus. All of these diseases are transmitted through mosquitoes. Symptoms include headaches, rashes, fever and inflammation of the eyes. However, most infected people do not show any symptom. This is particularly worrying since pregnant mothers have no idea if they have been infected or not.
Unfortunately there is no vaccine or treatment for the disease. Should a mother find out she is infected, she has little choice but to hope for the best or go through an abortion. However, prevention is quite straight forward. First of all, don’t travel to infected areas. If you are living in an infected area or you need to go there, make sure you use plenty of sunscreen. Also wear long pants and sleeves. You can also put on mosquito repellent or netting.
At the moment there are efforts to contain the spread of the virus throughout Brazil. They started by using pesticides to contain the spread of mosquitoes. Recently, they have used a genetically modified mosquito, called OX513A.
The mosquito has a mutated gene that kills its offspring. Since mosquitoes only mate once in their life, this helps contain the mosquito population. The same genetically modified organism was used in 2012 to contain a Dengue Fever outbreak in Florida Keys.
The Dengue fever is part of the same family of viruses. Until a cure will be found, do yourself a favor and take all the safety precautions mentioned above.
Do you know anyone who’s been infected by the Zika virus? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.