As Miami sprays Naled over its own populations, and GM mosquitoes are poised to be launched over parts of Florida, let’s pause to reflect on the sober realities about what we really know about Zika
Before the sudden emergence of a media-campaign claiming links between Zika and microcephaly in infants born to infected women, no one had ever considered Zika to be worthy of comment. Discovered in 1947, in Africa, it was known as a largely benign organism that may cause mild flu-like symptoms in 20% of those infected (the other 80% will be symptomless).
So, why the sudden hysteria? Why the travel-warnings, the mass-spraying programs, the dire warnings? Is it because Zika has now been found to be a serious threat to human health? Not at all. If you look beyond the screaming media headlines you’ll see there is as yet no proven causal connection between Zika and microcephaly at all.
The original Brazilian research on which the media hysteria was based found 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly (not over 4000 as some media alleged), and in only 17 – seventeen – of these was Zika detected in the mother or infant.
Other research indicates there is, or may be, a real though poorly defined, increase in local incidents of microcephaly in newborns in Northeast Brazil, but it regards a causal connection with the Zika virus as merely one theoretical possibility of many, and indeed it offers several good reasons for being sceptical about the potential connection:
Currently, the association with the ZIKV infection is the most explored possibility. Evidence of perinatal transmission of ZIKV(10) together with its strong neurotropism(11) and its documentation in amniotic fluid of foetuses with microcephaly(4) are factors that favour this hypothesis. However, if the ZIKV were indeed introduced in Brazil at the World Cup in mid 2014(12), the outbreak of microcephaly would have preceded it. ZIKV has been identified in Africa over 50 years ago, and neither there nor in the outbreaks outside Africa, such an association with microcephaly has been reported
In June this year a study was published that further weakened the potential link between Zika and microcephaly. Reviewing incidents of microcephaly in Columbia, it found almost no detectable connection between the defect and maternal infection with Zika.
Of the nearly 12,000 pregnant women with clinical symptoms of Zika infections until March 28, no cases of microcephaly were reported as of May 2. At the same time, four cases of Zika and microcephaly were reported for women who were symptomless for Zika infections and therefore not included in the study itself.
The NECSI report analyzes the data and shows that the four cases of Zika and microcephaly that have been observed till April 28 are just what would be expected due to the background rate — of the 60,000 pregnancies about 20,000 births would already be expected. The expected microcephaly rate for countries with no reported infections of 2-in-10,000 births gives exactly four cases. The study also notes that until April 28 there has been a total of about 50 microcephaly cases in Colombia, of which only four have been connected with Zika. The four cases are expected for the coincidence of Zika and microcephaly in the same pregnancies even if Zika is not the cause.
In light of this evidence, NECSI says the cause of microcephaly in Brazil should be reconsidered.
Why, on the basis of inconclusive science, pseudo-science and poor reasoning, is the US government instigating nationwide “prevention and containment” efforts aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, which includes the spraying of urban areas with highly toxic pesticides?
How much sense can it possibly make for the the US govt to drench parts of its own population with Naled, a compound that is known to cause, amongst other things,reduced-brain-size in unborn foetuses, in order to kill mosquitoes that might be carrying a virus that might be linked to a small risk of – reduced brain size in unborn foetuses?
And if that isn’t enough, it’s also given the go-ahead to release millions of genetically-modifed mosquitoes.
Because clearly a vanishingly small risk to public health demands as big and stupid an over-reaction as is humanly possible.