It would, of course, be a huge deal to have a mosquito-passed virus that causes irreparable harm to a fetus. So I think it's safe to say they're playing it safe, those people who decide such things, particularly after botching ebola. I'm not a doctor, but my scientist pal from NYU is pretty certain this is a case of pure hysteria. But few are willing to step forward and try to slow the juggernaut. So I share that intrigue, not to make you doubt the news from almost every single media outlet on the planet, but to note that almost every media outlet on the planet gets its news from the same sources - press releases. And if they don't read the press release (say the most cited ones from the CDC) then they merely echo the other news outlets, and so on. Many months after first confirming the link, even the first doctor to claim the link has doubts, but very little of that is reaching the thousands of women freaking out about their future babies.
In other words, were scientists to prove, as some in Brazil have suggested, that Zika is NOT the cause of birth defects, most notably microcephaly, wouldn't that be something? I'd call it unprecedented really. Or maybe we're just hard-wired to accept misinformation.
|Zip the Pinhead a/k/a |
William Henry Johnson
|Ota Benga: Tragic figure of another era|
And yet somehow, with little prodding, we as a species continue to regurgitate whatever we read in the legitimate press as fact. Until of course some exposAY comes along to shock the system and change our beliefs, often to the tune of "I told you so" or "I suspected as much." We're only tricked until we're not, then we knew all along.
A few months ago I caught slack for suggesting that Zika might not in fact be the cause of the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil, not because I know anything, but because a respected scientist pal was convinced it was highly unethical to unleash such unproven information on the world, potentially causing enormous resources to be redirected to the study of possible cures or containment, leaving other essential research behind. Not to mention making people bat-shit crazy with worry.
Just check out what a story on Public Radio International ran just a couple weeks back:
But as Zika has spread across the Americas, it has so far not been followed by a corresponding rise in microcephaly. In Colombia, for example, thousands of pregnant women are known to have contracted Zika. Colombian health officials have confirmed 22 cases of microcephaly this year that they said are linked to the Zika virus. Even in Brazil, in the populous state of Minas Gerais, which borders the most affected region, Nature reported there have only been three confirmed cases.So what's the truth of the matter? I have no clue. There have been plenty of "Zika related" cases of birth defects. But I would remind that that is way different than Zika-caused, even though some media use those terms interchangeably. Zika related means the two co-exist. But using the same logic, one could conclude that certain cases were flu-related, or acne-related. Worthy of study? Sure.
But not worthy of worldwide panic.