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Image of the Week: Zika

4 Mar, 2016

Zika still 4The Zika virus appears to have emerged from nowhere, causing widespread health concerns throughout the world after decades of relative silence. Why has this occurred now, and what can we do to prevent it from happening again?

Our image this week comes from a new animation on the Zika virus, created by the Wellcome Trust and Earth London. Here, you can find an excerpt from the animation:

 Why, only now, has [Zika] become an epidemic? What’s changed? The virus may have changed but there’s no doubt that we have. We now travel more, live closer together and our planet’s climate has become warmer and wetter.

Born in shallow pools of water, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is a carrier of the Zika virus, and others such as Yellow Fever and Dengue. Unlike us, it only travels an average of 400m from where it’s born.

A female mosquito’s top priority is to lay eggs, and to do so she must feed. And so she goes hunting – biting – in an attempt to find a rich source of nutrition – blood.

 If she’s carrying the Zika virus, it can enter the fresh wound, leaving a small amount of the virus behind. The virus can now multiply, often unnoticed, triggering a relatively minor fever and rash in around a fifth of those infected. And when an uninfected mosquito bites an infected person, the virus can be passed along again – continuing the cycle.

 Largely oblivious to the infection, we carry on, living, working, and travelling.  As a consequence, Zika has hopped the globe from Africa, through several countries and smaller islands until it reached South America.

 The animation is freely available to repost under Creative Commons.

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