21st Century Health Hazards Everyone Should Know About
The Danger: They can have serious consequences. Zika, for instance, isn't just dangerous for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. The virus can trigger a condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults, which can cause muscle weakness and even temporary paralysis, and there's some evidence it could have neurological effects. Here's the antidote to the panic: Your risk of catching one is low, says Allison Aiello, PhD, professor in the department of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. With Zika specifically, none of the 400 plus reported cases in the U.S. states were contracted here—they've all been travel-related, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have had locally acquired cases.) There's no evidence that there are more viruses spreading around now than there were in the past, says Aiello. There are a few reasons why it seems that way: We're better at detecting them; we're more efficient at spreading them (airplanes, bullet trains, etc.) and we've got a 24/7 news industry that loves reporting on them.
Your Safety Plan: Keep a non-obsessive eye on U.S. cases to see if and where any locally acquired cases pop up. (Get the latest CDC information here.) If it does come stateside or you're planning on traveling to a region where it's present, minimize your risk by following the same steps you would to avoid any mosquito bites, says Aiello: Use bug spray, hang mosquito nets over your bed if you're staying somewhere where the windows don't have screens and avoid standing water, where mosquitos breed.