The alarm is because there’s a lot scientists still aren’t sure of. Does Zika really cause microcephaly in babies? Was last year’s spike in microcephaly in Brazil even real, or just a result of doctors looking for it harder? Does Zika cause the paralyzing Guillain-Barré syndrome? Can mosquito species other than Aedes aegypti spread Zika? Can it be sexually transmitted?
But while there’s no vaccine against Zika, inoculating yourself against rumor and fear-mongering is just as important. There are sober explainers on what we do know about Zika; there’s advice from health authorities like the CDC and the WHO. The key is to know what to worry about and what not to.
Here’s the brief version: If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, take special care (here’s how) in places where Zika is being actively transmitted (here’s a map). If you’re trying to get pregnant, consider waiting. You might also be a little cautious in places where Zika isn’t spreading but A. aegypti is present and active, like Florida and Texas (here are mosquito maps).
If you’re not pregnant or trying for it, and you’re in a Zika or aegypti region, take precautions, but don’t panic. The link with Guillain-Barré is worrying, but still tenuous. Most people with Zika never develop symptoms, and most of those who do develop only mild ones. You can’t infect someone else by touch. And sexual transmission, if it exists at all, is extremely rare.
And if your local mosquitos aren’t aegypti but another species of Aedes—or a different genus altogether—there’s probably nothing to worry about. But keep an eye on the news, all the same.—Gideon Lichfield
Five Six things on Quartz we especially liked
Nuclear reactors are being built more like cars. They used to be custom-made and highly secretive; today, components and expertise shuttle around the globe. Christopher Groskopf tallies up every reactor built since 1955 and explains the workings of an increasingly globalized industry.
All the helicopters of Davos. Gloriously gadgety journalism: David Yanofsky built a receiver that Jason Karaian brought to Davos and used to identify and track every helicopter flying in and out of World Economic Forum. The data show when most of the world leaders arrived and left, and what routes they flew.
The US political poetry generator. However jaded you are by the US electoral campaign, Keith Collins’ algorithm will give you a fresh perspective by fitting excerpts from candidates’ speeches into the styles of famous poets. Donald Trump as Maya Angelou? “I try to show them // Free bird thinks of another breeze // Like dust, I’ll rise.”
Will Europe’s bureaucrats break the internet? The Safe Harbor Agreement was a bureaucratic kludge that allowed US companies to comply with European data protection rules—until the EU’s top court struck it down. As the deadline looms for regulators to strike a new deal, Joon Ian Wong analyzes the options for what happens if they don’t.
“Senior Chinese banker” is a dangerous profession. President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive has taken a strange toll: An extraordinary number of top Chinese bank executives have died, disappeared, or been detained over the past year, the latest in an apparent suicide this week. Zheping Huang has a roll-call of the victims.
Get dizzy with drone racing. The Drone Racing League is the US’s newest sports federation. Murphy delves into the intricacies of setting up such a competition—from solving technical problems to struggling to codify a set of rules. Jacob Templin’s drone’s-eye video of a lap around a racecourse at 70 mph may remind you of the chase scenes from Star Wars (and make you a little queasy).
Five Four things elsewhere that made us smarter
What went wrong in Flint. Anna Maria Barry-Jester at FiveThirtyEight explores the bad science that has kept Flint, Michigan residents drinking lead-contaminated water for almost two years. She skewers the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for a series of bad decisions and reveals how a remarkable effort by citizens finally forced state and local governments to act.
Blue jeans helped fuel the rise of heroin. Yes, you read that right. For men in rural Mexico in the 1990s, Levi’s 501s, expensive and hard to obtain, became both a form of currency and a status symbol. Dealers returned again and again to the US to stock up for friends and family, and also sold more heroin while there, Olga Khazan reports in the Atlantic.
Welcome to America—now spy for us. Clear guidelines forbid the FBI from tying people’s citizenship applications to their willingness to give up information. But the agency is doing exactly that, according to an investigation by Buzzfeed’s Talal Ansari and Siraj Datoo, pressuring Muslim immigrants to inform on family and friends or else have their cases spend years in limbo.
The short and brutal life of Target in Canada. You probably don’t think of ”poor data entry” as one of the things that can sink a mighty company, nor that there could be drama and adventure in supply-chain software. Joe Castaldo will prove you wrong, in this riveting and illuminating account for Canadian Business of how the US retailer’s big push into Canada spectacularly imploded.
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