SDSU students continue to study abroad in South America despite Zika threat

by Georgina Vargas, Contributor

The mosquito-borne Zika virus is an emerging health threat that is spreading globally.

With no vaccine or treatment for the virus, San Diego State students who are studying abroad are encouraged to take precautions before traveling.  Despite the Zika virus threat, several SDSU students are studying abroad in Zika-infected countries.

The International Student Center requires students to learn about the health risks and threats in the countries they are visiting from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

“Zika is a newer threat and we send students to universities where there is less risk such as Puerto Alegre in the south of Brazil,“ senior advisor and study abroad coordinator Maribel Franco said. “We send students a fact sheet for risk management and an emergency card for services in the country and even at SDSU.”

Franco said the northern part of Brazil has a large number of Zika outbreaks. 

Stanley Maloy, dean of the College of Sciences and professor of biology, warns the Zika mosquitos  can cause threats to pregnancies. Maloy said the Zika virus is also tricky because mosquitos like humans and are able to survive in areas where there are less water.

Maloy was a moderator at an event for  the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology on Oct. 5 where a panel of experts discussed the Zika virus.

“It is important to be aware of the males that can transmit the Zika virus because it stays in their bodies for six months,” Malloy said. “Males are able to transmit the virus to a baby if they get a female pregnant during that period of time.”

Abel Martinez, an international business student with an emphasis in Latin America said he doesn’t think he will get the Zika virus while studying abroad. He said he has gotten four vaccines in order to avoid getting sick.

Martinez is studying at the Universidad del Desarollo in Chile and learning new business concepts to find ways in which the U.S. can help South America in their development.

Martinez was in Brazil for five  days before the school semester began and said  he never worried about the Zika virus.

“If it’s something that seems to be big in the U.S., it may be the media inflating it,” Martinez said. “The locals don’t talk about the virus and I never saw any information about it anywhere.”

Maloy said that Zika is spreading throughout the world and recently there have been outbreaks in Puerto Rico.

“Students need to have mosquito protection when traveling such as being aware of where they sleep especially in open areas, wearing mosquito repellent and closing windows at night if they don’t have window screens,”Maloy said.

Franco said she also tracks current events in countries where the students are studying to inform and help them if there is a threat.