Conspiracy theorists believe Zika virus was created by the US government as a biological weapon against developing countries. Is this true?
The Zika virus has spread rapidly across South America since 2015. In 2016, Brazil reported over 3 million cases of Zika infection. Since then, the virus has spread to other parts of Latin America and even reached North America. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Zika a global public health emergency in February 2017.
Conspiracy theories are often fueled by fear and misinformation. Some conspiracy theories are rooted in reality, such as the theory that vaccines cause autism or that the moon landing was faked. Others are simply false. For example, it is untrue that you can catch Zika from mosquito bites.
Zika facts will surprise you. While the majority of people infected with Zika experience no symptoms at all, others suffer mild fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache, red eyes, and fatigue. These symptoms usually appear 2-7 days after being bitten by an infected Aedes species mosquito. However, some people may develop more severe complications including Guillain-Barré syndrome, microcephaly, and ocular disorders.
How do mosquitoes transmit Zika? Mosquitoes only bite during certain times of day and night. When they feed on blood, they inject saliva into their victims. This saliva contains proteins called midgut antigens which trigger an immune response in humans. If a person is already sick, these antibodies can be passed through breast milk and infect the baby via breastfeeding.
It’s important to note that not everyone who gets Zika develops symptoms. People who have been exposed but did not get sick are considered “asymptomatic carriers.” They don’t show any signs of illness, but still carry the virus. Asymptomatic carriers can pass the disease to others when they touch objects contaminated with the virus.