Fear 3.0

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Zika. Sigh.

I have failed to contain the beachhead these wee beasties have established within the minds of Americans (See Fear 1.0 and Fear 2.0 for my vain attempts). Unlike Ebola, Zika means to stay and torment us indefinitely. And it has succeed at the task because it means to strike at our fecundity. Hell hath no fury like those with compromised reproductive capabilities.

An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine asserts:

Zika virus infection (ZIKV) during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, yet the magnitude of risk remains uncertain. Investigators studying the 2013–2014 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia estimated that the risk of microcephaly due to ZIKV infection in the first trimester of pregnancy was 0.95% (95% confidence interval, 0.34 to 1.91), on the basis of eight microcephaly cases identified retrospectively in a population of approximately 270,000 people with an estimated rate of ZIKV infection of 66%.

These sentences ought to get some neurons releasing neurotransmitters carrying doubt. There was a 0.95% of bearing a child with microcephaly on the “basis of eight microcephaly cases.” Hmmm… only eight cases you say. I think that’s a small sample size for any kind of study, especially when one considers the Zika propaganda catapulted into American living rooms. Continue reading the article and one will notice how it is peppered with words like “assume,” “possible,” “estimate,” “uncertainties,” “limitations,” “confounded,” and “unknown.” The aforementioned words convey lack of certainty. Doubt. Perhaps hesitation. That makes sense, for study of the virusand its health implicationsis still a nascent endeavor.

Again from the New England Journal of Medicine, a study of eighty-eight pregnant women infected with Zika virus was conducted in  Rio de Janeiro. Of those eighty-eight, only forty-two women consented to ultrasonographic examinations. The ultrasounds demonstrated abnormalities in 29% of the observed fetuses, not all afflicted by microcephaly. A breathtaking percentage when taken out of context. However, twenty-nine percent only represents twelve fetuses, hardly representative of the population at large. Yet, the conclusion drawn from these data, and similar studies and articles, by public health officials implicate Zika virus as the cause for microcephaly. I am not convinced this is the case. These studies are too small for my liking. I’m vexed that no maverick among public health officials has addressed the seemingly paltry evidence supporting this conclusion. It is my opinion that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have brazenly shut themselves off from counter claims, prisoners of their own hubris. Behold the following statement:

“There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly…” [emphasis added]

Well, I guess that’s the end of it, is it not?

That statement, uttered by the director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, has directed the public discourse related to the cousin of dengue. All media outlets have greedily devoured the paltry evidence and have essentially conflated the morbidity and mortality associated with the virus. The New York Times is especially guilty with their foolish motto: “All the news that’s fit to print.” Pregnant woman have been urged to stay away from countries with Zika. Even more fatuous, public health officials have advised people to avoid mosquito bites. Ah, yes! How novel. Has anyone ever left their homes with the intent to receive mosquito bites?

Hypothetical person: Ah, what a marvelous day. I wonder whether the mosquitos are fluttering about. Nothing gets my morning started like itchy legs and communicable disease. 

As I have previously written, I am not concerned about Zika virus like the media hopes I would be; and that is not due to the fact that I shall never be a pregnant woman. Further study is required to establish causation. In the meanwhile, action by local communities must include proper health and disease education and the dissemination of accurate information. From what has been adduced, public health officials have failed to demonstrate that Zika is the cause of microcephaly. So why do we permit such unabashed statements to be made?

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3 comments on “Fear 3.0”

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