Zika Archives

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“Don’t Get Pregnant”: Brazil’s Microcephaly Epidemic

Originally Published Dec 28, 2015

Last year, there were 147 cases in Brazil of microcephaly in newborns, a birth defect that results in abnormally small heads, often brain damage, and even early death.

This year, there have been more than 2,400 cases of microcephaly in Brazilian babies—an epidemic that the nation’s health ministry has ominously described as “unprecedented in world scientific research.”

And while the astronomical jump in cases is being possibly attributed to the mosquito-borne Zika virus…there is yet no solid proof. So the best advice for Brazilian women as of now? ”Literally, “don’t get pregnant.”

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Imagine, if you will, such a massive jump in microcephaly cases, relative to the population, in a country like the United States. It would be bedlam. The U.S. would go batshit.

But unless it is absolutely known what is causing this epidemic in birth defects, there is no way to be sure it won’t also happen in the U.S. or some other country.

However, in addition to just the Zika theory, there are some other possibilities as to what’s going on in Brazil:

Hey, How About Genetically Modified Mosquitos?

In June of ’15, genetically modded male Aedes aegypti mosquitos were released in Brazil to help stem the tide of the disease dengue. The genes of the insects were altered to sire offspring who die early, thus preventing the spread of the deadly ailment.

But what if they threw “off” the balance of Nature somehow…

The genetically modified Aedes aegypti conspiracy theory regarding the current epidemic of microcephaly is one of the most popular right now, but there is also…

Climate Change

This would actually work hand-in-hand with Zika or some other insect-transmitted disease or virus, the warmer temperatures upsetting the ecosystem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

In the U.S., public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological, and ecological systems, including disturbances originating here and elsewhere. The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.

The Brazilian Sewage Problem

A big story from last year was Rio’s “medieval” sewage system, and the extremely high levels of bacteria found in its waterways. This has especially become an issue because of the impending 2016 Olympics, which will be held in the city.

Lots of Animals Dying In Brazil

And it only kinda gets worse, with large numbers of fish and penguins dying off in the country over the last year.

Lest this seem like only a “Brazil” problem, I suggest it should really be studied as a template for what might happen anywhere; the “perfect storm” of factors (climate change, genetic manipulation, over-population, endemic poverty) creating a Children of Men-type situation.

You can imagine how fun I am at parties and small talk.

***

“Zika Virus Reported In Texas”

Originally Published Jan 14, 2016

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stupid jerk mosquito

Last month, I wrote about the huge spike in cases of microcephaly in Brazilian newborns—from 147 cases in 2014 to 2,400 in 2015:

Imagine, if you will, such a massive jump in microcephaly cases, relative to the population, in a country like the United States. It would be bedlam. The U.S. would go batshit.

One possible explanation for this troubling situation was the resurgence of the Zika virus, most commonly carried by Aedes aegypti mosquitos. Well…now apparently a case of Zika has been reported in Texas.

The unnamed person had returned to Houston after traveling to El Salvador; there have been 22 U.S. cases of Zika reported by returning travelers since 2007.  Only difference here is that this seems to be a “mutated” version of Zika, and that the virus (and possibly the mosquitos) has been steadily making its way north from Brazil over the past year, hitting Puerto Rico over the holidays.

Some points here:

1 No need to get xenophobic about this. It’s not the people who are spreading the disease, it’s the mosquitos.

2 The mosquitos who are carrying this particular strain of Zika haven’t reached the U.S. yet; rather, this was a traveler who got infected.

3 That said, given enough time and the “right” set of climatic circumstances, the mosquitos could end up in the United States, spreading the virus.

That last point, I think, is important. As I wrote in my initial post:

Lest this seem like only a “Brazil” problem, I suggest it should really be studied as a template for what might happen anywhere; the “perfect storm” of factors (climate change, genetic manipulation, over-population, endemic poverty) creating a Children of Men-type situation.

I believe many of these types of problems need to be looked at in this sort of holistic manner. It’s rarely just “one thing.”

Finally, some conspiracy theorists have been linking this new strain of Zika with the genetically altered Aedes aegypti mosquitos which were released in Brazil last Summer to, ironically, prevent further disease. Doing some rudimentary research, this seems to be, at present, a very “fringe” theory, often to be found in news sources who are “apocalyptic” (you know, as opposed to this site) or anti-vaccination in orientation.

That said…it is not the most insane theory on the entire planet that adding genetically altered animals to the eco-system might cause some weird, unforeseen things to happen. Certainly, we don’t want to fall into the anti-science paranoia that sees all attempts to proactively might disease with modern medical methodologies as “evil.”

At the same time, we don’t want to completely close off certain possible “suspects” in a case like Brazil’s microcephaly epidemic just because “vaccinessux.com” or “holyshittheiluminati.com” or “heydudehitlerwastotesmisunderstood.com” added their two cents.

Anyway, if the Zika virus does start becoming more prevalent in the U.S.—and it sees the same relative rise of newborns with microcephaly as Brazil—you’d best believe you’re going to hear about it on the 24-hour news cycle ALL THE TIME.

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“Zika Update: Women In Jamaica Advised Not To Get Pregnant For Up To A Year”

Originally Published Jan 20, 2016

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Illustration of the Aedes aegypti mosquito

In response to the growing threat of serious birth defects possibly caused by the mosquito-bourne virus Zika, officials in Jamaica have advised women to avoid getting pregnant for six months up to a year.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The females of a particular nation are being told to not get pregnant for a YEAR.

Brazilian women have already been warned to avoid pregnancy until the country’s massive spike in cases of newborns with microcephaly is brought under control. Though Zika has not been conclusively proven to be the cause of this epidemic, it’s thought highly likely.

And now, as the weather gets warmer (and accelerated by climate change), these mosquitos are migrating north.

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Let’s look at the World Map, shall we? How far away from the United States is Jamaica (the nation whose women have just been advised to not have children for up to a year)?

I see.

I hate to be a broken record about this whole Zika thing, but seriously this is going to become a HUGE issue in a short amount of time. My Facebook “trending news” feed is full of stories about how a Balinese cat looks like Adam Driver and stuff like that…

The ability of women to reproduce is one of the most basic factors of continuing human life on this planet.

On top of that…the United States already has a portion of its population currently jittery and brain-soaked in Apocalyptic religious and sociological cosmology.

What is going to happen if President Obama issues a statement warning women in the U.S. to not get pregnant for 6 months to a year?  

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Pretty much.

Read: “Zika Virus in the Americas — Yet Another Arbovirus Threat” from The New England  Journal of Medicine.

And for perspective on what the mothers impacted by the microcephaly spike in Brazil are going through, and what they think of their government’s response, check out this article on NPR.

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“Zika Updates: British Travel Advisory Against Florida, El Salvador 2-Year Pregnancy Warning, more”

Originally Published Jan 27, 2016

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I started covering this story back in December because something told me that it was going to be very, very important. Since then, it’s been like watching an oncoming train wreck in excruciatingly slow-motion.

I understand the desire to not spread panic, but I really have to question how slow the media was to pick up this story, and slow the public (outside the already-impacted areas) has been to understand the potential severity of this situation.

Item: Women in El Salvador have been advised to not get pregnant until 2018! This isn’t news from End Times Dot Com or Crazy Illuminati Squad but The New York Times:

When in human history has an epidemic become so alarming that a nation feels compelled to urge its people not to have children for two years?

Grappling with a mosquito-borne virus linked to brain damage in infants, El Salvador is doing just that, advising all women in the country not to get pregnant until 2018 — the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass that, to many here, only illustrates their government’s desperation.

Item: British medics recommend pregnant women or couples trying to have babies to avoid Florida.

So here we have it, the first pregnancy warning connected to the United States, albeit from Britain and related to travelers.

Item: Anonymous epidemiologist visits Reddit and claims medical authorities are unsure if the birth defects possibly connected with Zika might or might not impact developing fetuses after the person has gotten over the virus:

That’s the terrifying question that know one knows the answer to. Apparently Zika has a high viral load which may influence its ability to cross the placenta. I’m not sure if that will have an affect on the period it will be present in the body. The biggest problem is the majority have no symptoms whatsoever.

We also have no idea what the actual infection rate of infants are. Right now, only infants with microcephaly are being investigated. I worry that there may be cases of abnormal brain development in infants that have normal sized heads.

Item: Brazil mobilizes 220,000 troops to battle Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Almost 4,000 cases of microcephaly—which is thought to maybe be connected with the Zika virus—have been reported in Brazil since last October 2015…compared to less than 150 cases for the entire year of 2014.

Item: U.S. Airlines refunding tickets to travelers to Zika-impacted areas after social media outcry. The airline will refund tickets to El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Guatemala.

How will this epidemic impact the 2016 Olympics in Rio? The World Health Organization has already said Zika is likely to travel to the U.S.—will the nation also have to give warnings on pregnancy? What is the impact on a country like El Salvador if they can’t have children for TWO YEARS? How effective is suggesting women not get pregnant in poorer countries where they have less options? And how effective is suggesting women not get pregnant in countries where the Catholic Church is very active and against birth control?

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“Zika Transmitted Through Sex Reported In Texas”

Originally Published Feb 3, 2016

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Sanjay’s deer-in-headlights look does not reassure me

Today in Zika news—all-Zika, all the time, 24-hour Zika channel—a report from Texas of the virus being transmitted solely during sex.

Not being an alarmist, but this ain’t good folks.

The patient had been infected with Zika by having sex with a person who had recently acquired the virus from a mosquito bite while in Venezuela.

Zika has been connected to a massive outbreak of the catastrophic birth defect microcephaly in Brazil and other South American countries, as well as the paralyzing Guillain-Barré syndrome.

CDC Director Tom Frieden told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta:

There have been isolated cases of spread through blood transfusion or sexual contact and that’s not very surprising. The virus is in the blood for about a week. How long it would remain in the semen is something that needs to be studied and we’re working on that now.

But lest we start to panic and “frame” this epidemic as one tied to sexual transmission, Frieden added:

What we know is the vast majority of spread is going to be from mosquitoes…The bottom line is mosquitoes are the real culprit here.

That said, it seems as if medical officials might not be exactly clear as to how long Zika lingers in the body, as an anonymous epidemiologist pointed out on Reddit.

All we know for sure from the bits and pieces of news stories about Zika that continue to trickle in daily is: mosquitos are assholes. Fucking asshole mosquitos.

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“Monsanto Larvicide Real Culprit Behind Microcephaly Outbreak, Say Doctors…NOT Zika”

Originally Published Feb 15, 2016

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What Pyriproxyfen might look like

A group of Argentine doctors have suggested larvicide produced by a Monsanto subsidiary is behind the incredible surge of microcephaly cases found in Brazilian newborns…NOT the Zika virus.

According to a report by Physicians in Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), in 2014 a chemical called Pyriproxyfen was placed into Brazil’s water supply by the government, in order to cull the mosquito population. Pyriproxyfen is produced by a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto.

“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.”

While Zika—spread by your friend and mine the mosquito—has often been “suggested” as the reason for the recent outbreak of the birth defect microcephaly, there has been no absolute conclusive evidence to that effect.

Further, in countries other than Brazil who have been hit with the Zika outbreak…there have been plenty of people infected with the virus, but relatively little cases of microcephaly in newborns!

For example, according to the PCST report, 3,177 pregnant Columbian women were infected with Zika—but had fetuses/given birth to babies who did not have microcephaly. And the Washington Post recently reported that out of 732 cases from the microcephaly outbreak that were examined, more than half had NO connection to Zika.

I’ve tried to play the “let’s not jump to Wild Conspiracy Theories” card on my posts on the Zika outbreak, just reporting pertinent news as it’s come up. But to be honest, in the back of my head I was sort of always wondering if something other than the virus…like, say, fucked-up chemicals…might have played a factor in the microcephaly outbreak.

But then I thought: Well that’s crazy. I mean, who’s heard of a government poisoning the water of their citizens, leading to child birth defects? That’s unheard of! Mainstream media articles suggested that if I thought there could be any other possible reason for the outbreak other than the “official story” (though the people responsible for such “official stories” apparently don’t even know 100% what the fuck is going on), I’m some sort of horrible anti-vaxxer fanatic who should be locked up.

And a company like Monsanto can’t be responsible for something like this…they’ve got Bill Nye The Science Guy as a spokesperson! And Nye don’t just shill for anybody.

But now I’m going to let out a very small, tentative “A-HA!”

Here it comes:

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Zika still sucks, though, so let’s not all start sucking each other’s dicks just yet.