The weather is still cold in much of the United States, so many Americans have forgotten about the dangers that can accompany warm weather. One such danger is the Zika virus, and while it may not be on many people's minds just yet, it will be again, when temperatures climb.
According to the Pan American Health Organization's most recent Regional Zika Epidemiological Update (Americas), the number of people infected with the Zika virus in the Caribbean is 651 cases per week, and in South America the weekly average is 6,601 cases, of which 6,164 were reported in Brazil alone.
In the United States more than 5,000 cases were reported between Jan. 1, 2015, and March 1, 2017. While 4,779 of these were cases in travelers returning from areas outside of the United States already known to be Zika hot spots, six cases in Texas and 215 cases in Florida were presumed to be acquired through local mosquito-borne transmission.
One company on the front lines in the Zika war is Oxitec, a biotech company in the U.K. But if you think they're working on a vaccine, you're wrong. Rather, they're creating genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to mate with the females who carry the disease.
According to Dr. Derric Nimmo, Oxitec's principal scientist, the company uses genetic engineering to create what they call self-limiting insects. It creates only males, as males don't bite or transmit disease. They do, however, mate with disease-carrying female Aedes aegypti insects and produce offspring that, like its genetically modified father, die before it can reach adulthood.
This means the offspring will never reach the stage in which they can carry and pass on the virus.