Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Manmade Zika Panic

Yellow fever. Smallpox. Influenza. Polio. SARS. HIV. It seems there will always be another plague to beleaguer humankind. The latest villain in this vein is the Zika virus.

As our technology improves, our biological enemies seem to get smarter. Antibiotic resistant bacteria. Exotic cancers. Autoimmune disorders. The stuff of nightmares, seemingly of our own creation at times. Still, nature can produce her own surprises.

Not, it seems, this time.

Despite the fact there has been no proven link between Zika and the microcephaly disorder, it has been fingered as the culprit. Like many other diseases, the large majority of people infected never show outward signs of the disease. It is estimated that 80% of those who have the virus don't know it. Contrary to popular belief, the Zika virus has been known since 1947 and outbreaks first occurred in Africa shortly thereafter. It spread eastward across the Pacific until it reached South America and found widespread fame in Brazil when babies began to be born with the disorder. However, it is more likely the disorder was caused by pesticides spread on the population during crop-dusting activities and even added to their drinking water beginning in 2014. 

To quote a report by the Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), the chemical used in the dusting is the culprit and the Brazilian Health Ministry is cohort to this debacle.

Pyriproxyfen is a growth inhibitor of mosquito larvae, which alters the development process from larva to pupa to adult, thus generating malformations in developing mosquitoes and killing or disabling them. It acts as an insect juvenile hormone or juvenoid, and has the effect of inhibiting the development of adult insect characteristics (for example, wings and mature external genitalia) and reproductive development. It is an endocrine disruptor and is teratogenic (causes birth defects)...Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added pyriproxyfen to drinking water is not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on Zika virus for this damage, while trying to ignore its responsibility and ruling out the hypothesis of direct and cumulative chemical damage caused by years of endocrine and immunological disruption of the affected population...

This Zika crisis seems to be the result of unintended consequences. Of course, once the finger has been pointed by as prestigious an organization as the WHO (which is also implicated in the spreading of the chemical), the rest of the world blindly follows suit. The epidemic has begun, even though there is clear evidence that the Zika virus is relatively weak except in cases of people whose immune systems are already compromised. Now the medical communities of South and Central America can blame the Zika virus for sickness and death otherwise inexplicable. They have a ready-made scapegoat and can reason away their lack of medical acumen by pointing out they are helpless because there is no vaccine or cure for the virus.

It is easier to blame nature for human stupidity. The Zika virus isn't at fault for the outbreak of birth defects in Brazil. The Brazilian government is.