Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Does the Zika Virus Deserve the Hype?


There is no doubt that mothers giving birth to microcephalic babies is a personal (as well as family) tragedy and a great financial imposition on stretched health services. Having said that, I am not certain that the putative link between this condition and mosquito-carried Zika virus in Central and South America is really in the same category as Ebola (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/01/zika-virus-world-health-organisation-declares-global-health-emergency) as claimed by WHO. For a start, human to human transmission is not involved in Zika and the level of mortality resulting from infection is much, much lower. There is certainly evidence that the mosquito vector species of the virus is extending its range but Malaria (also mosquito-borne) has been widespread in Africa for hundreds of years and causes much greater mortality (especially in children) without quite attracting the same accolades. I am not convinced that photo opportunities of soldiers distributing insecticides to kill the odd mosquito (even if they are allowed access to anyone's property) will have much effect, as the insect larvae can breed in the tiniest collections of rainwater (in foot-prints, old tin cans or roofs of buildings and holes in trees). Perhaps the criticism of the WHO over the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the siting of the Olympic games in Brazil and the potencies of the images of babies have all combined to play a role in the media reaction to Zika?

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Pat Bateson

I have just noted the obituary of Sir Patrick Bateson 1938-2017 ( https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/14/sir-patrick-bateson-ob...