Recent disease outbreak could threaten students studying abroad


An Alabama resident tested positive for the Zika on Feb. 10. CW | Layton Dudley

Mackenzie McClintock

Another serious foreign disease outbreak has found its way into the United States. Zika, an insect-transmitted virus, is not only in the U.S., but has also been confirmed in Alabama.

As of Feb. 10, one Alabama resident has tested positive for Zika virus, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). The individual became infected while visiting an area outside of America that is experiencing a Zika outbreak and then traveled back to Alabama.

While abroad, the individual came into contact with Zika through the Aedes genus of mosquito. Aedes mosquitoes are the carriers of Zika virus and infects humans through their bites.

“[The mosquitoes] are aggressive daytime biters, prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people,” according to the ADPH’s website.

However, those who are infected with Zika typically experience mild symptoms. Often times, this causes Zika to go unnoticed at first or even undiagnosed. The possible symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the ADPH.

Much like the ADPH, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) has up-to-date information concerning Zika. This information can be found online as well.

Recently Zika has received attention for its outbreaks in Brazil. However, Zika is not new to other parts of the world. It had affected tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands before finding its way to South America, according to the CDC’s website.

Now that it has been identified in America, those wanting to travel abroad in the future may have to take precautionary measures to avoid infection.

This poses a challenge for Americans, especially students wanting to study in foreign countries. At The University of Alabama, study abroad programs are offered in multiple regions around the world, including those affected by Zika virus.

Philip Jackson, 19, is a UA student double majoring in international relations and Spanish. Due to his longtime interest in learning about different cultures, he has decided to study abroad during his time in college. His Cuban roots and the recent decrease of tensions between Cuba and the U.S. motivated him to choose Cuba as his place to study abroad in the spring of 2017.

However, Jackson is aware of the danger that his trip, as well as the trips of other UA students, now face because of the recent Zika outbreaks outside of North America.

“I have a friend going on the Nicaragua trip for spring break,” Jackson said. “It has been confirmed there, and they have to wear long sleeves and long pants the entire trip.”

If his studying in Cuba were to be threatened by Zika virus, Jackson said he would do all that he could to still be able to travel abroad. He believes that since Zika has spread as far as the U.S., a cure for it will be invented in the near future.

For more information on Zika virus, visit the ADPH or CDC’s website.