Opinion by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian media are buzzing like flies about a virus called Zika, which, like its cousin dengue, is easier to pronounce than Chikungunya. As a result of this buzz, everybody “knows” that an outbreak of the Zika virus has caused thousands of cases of microcephalous births, principally in Brazil’s Northeast. And everybody “knows” that babies born with smaller crania are inevitably doomed to a sub-standard life.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

Except that what everybody “knows” simply isn’t true.

There is no scientific evidence that links the Zika virus to microcephalous births. Of the thousands of cases now being reported as microcephaly, there are exactly two (2) cases where traces of the virus have been found in the amniotic fluid. As an official US Government report has stated: “There is no indication that any pregnant woman needs to leave an area that has Zika infections at this time.”

There is also no generally accepted scientific definition of how much smaller than “normal” a cranium must be to be called“microcephalic”. The reported numbers of microcephalic births are hundreds of times greater than ever in the past, which may mean that doctors, when in doubt, follow their herd instincts and say it’s microcephaly.

The good news is that there is scientific evidence showing that microcephaly can be treated and children grow up normally. Good news, of course, doesn’t make good headlines, so the media don’t report it.

The fact is that no one in Brazil knows much at all about Chikungunya or dengue or Zika, which is semi-officially called “dengue light”. That fact doesn’t keep the media from interviewing people who claim to know something scary.

The flavor-of-the-week virus is “Oropouche”. A couple of researchers seeking their 15 minutes of fame have claimed that at least half the “dengue” cases reported in Brazil are really Oropouche. No matter that Oropouche is transmitted by a fly and not by the mosquito that allegedly transmits dengue. The important thing is to be the first to announce a new health hazard.

The Curmudgeon, who has consulted public health officers before writing this, believes that the Zika “epidemic” will end when the media have more juicy political news to feed their readers.

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The Curmudgeon moved to Rio almost forty years ago, and has pretty much remained here ever since. He’s been writing political commentary for The Rio Times for almost seven years. He used to refer to himself as a WASP (look it up) but doesn’t any more because it embarrasses him.

10 COMMENTS

  1. And the Zika crisis will stop when the Brazilian Health Authority fesses up that they introduced contaminated immunizations into the general poor population and are attempting to blame it all on Zika to avoid any legal responsibility. Notice the cases of Microcephaly are limited to the poor who rely on free public healthcare and not babies born in more affluent households or just even those with private healthcare who don’t receive immunizations through the public healthcare system.

  2. “The important thing is to be the first to announce a new health hazard.”

    And to take your mind off of political and economic disasters taking place…

  3. the brasilian media are a bunch of know nothing, 5th columnist, fascist clowns…

    2 dr. schwartz – it is not the brasilian ‘health authority’ introducing contaminated immunization to the poor.
    it is a few corrupt unethical actors w/i this system (suppliers & administrators) who are to blame. another investigation perhaps for the pf to pursue…..

  4. There are missing pieces to this puzzle. Why is microcephaly occurring only in Brazil? The Zika virus is now found in most of South America, Central America, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and yet, none of these other countries are experiencing elevated cases of microcephaly. Another aspect is evidence that this virus might also be transmitting sexually from person to person, so in effect, it is spreading as an STD as well.

    I am personally not convinced that the Zika virus alone is causing the explosion of microcephaly in Brazil. There’s something else going on in Brazil, something that has yet to be discovered or revealed, something that is tragically occurring only in Brazil. Perhaps it is an environmental factor, or something in a medication or even in a vaccine, but something went tragically awry in Brazil

    Now, assuming for a moment that the Zika virus is NOT causing microcephaly in Brazil, then that opens up a whole new mystery. As an American who has traveled to Brazil frequently over the course of the last 25 years, I will not be visiting Brazil again any time soon until we have some answers about what exactly is going on over there.

    John in Los Angeles, CA

  5. Man… There is more evidence than that you pointed. There is a strong statistical correlation between dengue fever outbreaks in 2015 and microcephaly cases some seven-eight months later in some areas, suggesting that a new disease might well be spreading the same way, via the aedes mosquito, a disease with similar (or no) symptoms.

    Besides, what makes this hypothesis stronger is that there are several health problems with the same pattern: rash, asymptomatic cases, problems to pregnant women, as rubella or toxoplasmosis.

    Adding insult to the injury, relativizing the consequences of microcephaly, and other problems that are being seen now, is dishonest. I think that, in this case, you might be shouting fire in a crowded theater…

  6. I think time and history are going to make you and this article look both foolish and dangerous. Telling people to not worry about something so deadly serious as this is grossly irresponsible as a journalist and a human being.

  7. Wow. So it’s not the Zika virus…hooray…so that means according to your article there is a rampant virus or toxic element in Brazil causing the most severe type of affliction possible on a family.

    Forget the nice photo of the child going around with a mild condition, start circulating the photos of the normal state these children are born looking like and your article fades into unreality.

    The CDC has stated no scientific connection yet – that doesn’t mean there is not one. What is scary is that Zika virus in Brazil may have undergone a mutation .

    Bottom line is there is something horrifying going on in Brazil and this author seems to be interested in laughing it off and discrediting anyone and everything…the elephant is still in the room and growing.

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