NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t



FRESH AIR: The mosquito-borne Zika epidemic is headed for its first summer in the United States. New York Times reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that if the virus is ever going to hit hard in the U.S., 2016 will be the year.”No one in the population has had the disease before, so nobody is immune to it, nobody has antibodies to it,” McNeil says. “After this year, a fair number of people will be immune, and each year immunity will grow.” In his new book, Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, McNeil explores the origins of the Zika virus, as well as how it spreads and the best means of protecting ourselves from it. When it comes to the virus’ transmission in the continental U.S., McNeil notes the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus, are mostly concentrated in Florida and the Gulf Coast. But, he adds, the fact that the virus can be transmitted sexually means that Zika has the potential to spread more broadly. “Scientists are just gobsmacked” by the virus’ sexual transmission, McNeil says. “Viruses mutate like crazy, but one thing they don’t normally change is how they’re transmitted. … You don’t expect a mosquito-borne virus to become something that can be transmitted through an act of unprotected sex. But this one is.” MORE