Passing on an STD to your wife is not necessarily the kind of thing you want made public. For that matter, have the CDC make public. But when you're the first documented case of an insect-borne disease transmitted through sexual intercourse, you hardly have a choice.
Outside of this guy and his wife seriously taking one for the team, it's fascinating (and scary) how our planet's changing climate forces more and more of these diseases into our lives. For example, rising temperatures are already bringing malaria to new altitudes like Mount Kenya.
Back in 2008, U.S. biologist Brian Foy and his partner Kevin Kobylinski were researching malaria by harvesting mosquitoes from the west African village of Bandafassi. During their expedition the researchers were bitten quite often. Five days after their return on August 24th, both men had a rash around their trunk along with extreme fatigue, headaches and painfully swollen joints. Foy was even experiencing painful urination.
"My wife wasn't happy with what happened afterwards," Foy explains.
On September 3rd, Foy's wife took ill with similar symptoms. She had extreme headaches, hypersensitivity to light and severe muscle pains. However, their four children remained unaffected.
A mosquito-based infection was the suspected cause but how Foy's wife contracted the pathogen remained a mystery. It not only stumped the two scientists, but many laboratories including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose lab for insect-borne diseases which is near where Foy lives in Fort Collins. A year later the mystery pathogen was deduced over a few rounds of beers--which usually leads to STDs--on a return trip to Senegalr. Both researchers had become infected with Zika.
Medical entomologist from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston studies how pathogens survive, plus he has a great personal interest Zika. His grandfather was one of the scientists who isolated the virus in monkey in 1947. He speculated to Kobylinski that it may very well be the cause, and it was.
Not much is known about Zika. Up until 2007, there were only 14 known cases. That year Yap Island was hit with an explosive outbreak that infected over 70% of the island's inhabitants. In comparison to malaria where a child dies in Africa every 43 seconds from the disease. It has gotten so out of hand that some of the solutions border on ridiculous, like this mosquito-zapping laser from TED.
It is unclear how important the role of sexual transmission is in Zika's survival though this adds a new level of evidence to the Yap outbreak. And as our planet's temperature continues to warm (whether man-made or Liberal conspiracy), we will definitely face more and more unknowns like these. Increases in sea surface temperature and sea level rise lends itself to greater incidence of water-borne illnesses such as cholera. Of course, this is far from limited to human compromise. These shifts are already plaguing our oceans.
Most importantly, a gianormous thanks to Brian and Kevin for the work they are doing! And of course, Brian's wife, for being really understanding.