Media Coverage of Pandemic Outbreaks


With the help of these guys, Zika is on its way to the U.S. Photo by Cheryl Empey

I’m actually going to step away from sports for a second to touch on the rising threat of the Zika virus in the Western Hemisphere. Recently, I joined the IR Futures student club at the University of Oregon out of curiosity for corporate communications and one of the fun things about the group is that it runs a little stock exchange competition. You put one dollar down on a publically-traded company and at the end of the term whichever company sees the largest percentage worth growth wins. Many tend to stick to the large companies like Facebook, Nike, Apple, etc. but a member gave me a tip that smaller firms with higher risk might be the better play. I did some research on the health care industry and stumbled across a discussion about “investing in Zika.” With morbid curiosity, I went with a little biotechnology firm named Intrexon. Intrexon works in synthetic biology to combat health problems and is currently working on a project to genetically modify mosquitos to spread a gene that makes its offspring die young. If it weren’t for my own financial benefit, I probably would have ignored Zika until it became an issue that hit closer to home.

Zika is a mosquito-borne illness that causes those infected to experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, joint ache and pinkeye. The concern from Zika however is much more grime. Zika is reportedly linked to a rising rate of microcephaly, a birth defect that results in smaller head and brain size in babies affected, in Brazil. The Zika virus is known to be spread through mosquitos.

As far as I can remember, since the SARS outbreak in 2003 it seems as though there has consistently been at least one pandemic scare reported on in the media. We all remember the panic Ebola planted in the conscious of the U.S. Even before the first person in the U.S. was diagnosed with the disease in September of 2014, the nation was on high alert. According to the CDC however, as of January 31, 2016, only four people total have been diagnosed with the disease in the United States, with only one resulting death. Those miniscule numbers didn’t stop about 50 percent of American adults from fearing an outbreak.

Zika seems to be following the same trend as its pandemic predecessors. Right now, it’s an outside issue, but one to study up on. We can hope that a cure will come soon and we can eradicate the virus sooner rather than later. If not, it’ll be interesting to see if the tides will turn in the media and the resulting public outcry.



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