This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Controlling the Zika Virus Means Controlling Mosquitos

The Zika virus has stunned the world over the past couple of weeks, as I have already noted. There are still a lot of questions about how it spread from Africa to Brazil and why it it taking off as it appears to be. The key to its spread, though, is that infected persons must be bitten by the type of mosquito that carries it (the Aedes aegypti), although there is some circumstantial evidence that it could also be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Assuming that the mosquito is the real issue, then controlling mosquitos is obviously the way to control the spread of the disease. This week the Economist reminds us that Brazil had done a pretty good job of getting rid of mosquitos back in the 1950s, but success led to complacency and the mosquito population has bounced back, with horrific consequences for at least some of the Zika virus victims.
Brazil was declared free of A. aegypti in 1958, after a campaign that included regular fumigation and visits to ensure households got rid of standing water, where mosquitoes like to breed. Since then, the insect has bounced back. Might the fear of Zika help finish the job properly this time?
As another article in the Economist points out, mosquito eradication, while expensive, is clearly a better solution to the problem than telling women not to get pregnant. At the same time, countries all over the world need to monitor visitors from Brazil, in the same way that visitors from West Africa were monitored for Ebola. The map below, published by the Economist, compiles data on visitors from Brazil to other parts of the hemisphere and to Europe. The numbers are very large, and bound to explode as we get nearer to the summer Olympics to be held in Brazil. 




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