Zika Anxieties and a Role for Geography

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

The Zika virus epidemic in the Americas persists, with no signs of waning. Every day, fresh details emerge about its pathology and transmission: possible links between Zika infection and microcephaly in newborn babies and a rare nervous system disorder,Guillain-Barré Syndrome, along with evidence that the virus can be spread through sexual contact, not just a mosquito’s bite. In Brazil—so far the country most impacted by the epidemic—rumors about the causes of Zika spread quickly through social media (and old-fashioned word-of-mouth), threatening well-intentioned efforts to control the disease, which are considered crucial to the country’s preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics (Barbara 2016, Carneiro and Costa 2016). Meanwhile, the North American media and the general public react with alarm, advancing their own theories about the roots of Zika.