November 3, 2016
This post originally appeared in The Washington Post.
The word “Zika” has burst into the national consciousness as a serious emerging threat to public health. The Zika virus is typically transmitted by the bite of a mosquito and poses huge risks to pregnant women, as it may cause birth defects.
Until recently, cases of Zika had been confined to parts of South America, Asia and Africa. Now, it’s reached our shores. In the United States and Puerto Rico, more than 19,000 cases have been identified, mostly in Puerto Rico. These numbers include more than 1,700 pregnant women.
While many people who contract Zika may feel no symptoms, it’s heart-wrenching to see the pictures of affected newborns and read stories about the fear Zika is spreading among parents expecting children. The toll in human misery is rising, along with actual and projected costs, which will continue for years to come. Dr. Tom Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the cost estimates of lifetime care for a baby affected by Zika may range from $1 million to $10 million, per child.