Zeroing in on Zika May 19, 2016 The Zika virus was first identified as a serious health thre…

May 19, 2016

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Zeroing in on Zika

Every year I spend one to two weeks visiting the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. I don’t go for vacation, despite the allure of that country’s white sand beaches, but rather for work. I spend most of my time in windowless classrooms teaching clinical and research ethics to a number of graduate, medical and professional students from across the region.

One of the worries often voiced by family and friends when I travel to the tropics is about my health and safety. In recent years there have been a number of outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases across Latin America and the Caribbean, including dengue, Chikungunya and (most recently) Zika. I myself caught Chikungunya during a visit to Grenada a year-and-a-half ago. Despite having a relatively mild case of what the locals call ‘Chick-V’, I still suffer from some lingering aftereffects, including  intermittent arthritis-like joint pain in my right hand.

Despite all hullabaloo about Chikungunya in past years, public concern about that disease has largely faded in both the US and in the Caribbean. Most of the people I work with or teach in Grenada caught and recovered from ‘Chick-V.’ While the disease is now endemic in that part of the world, the number of new cases is relatively small since most people are now immune. Moreover, the long-term health impacts of Chikungunya are relatively mild.

Instead, and rightfully so, it is the rapid spread of the Zika virus across the Western hemisphere that is raising so many concerns.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.