Opinion by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — The Curmudgeon wrote a couple weeks ago that “Brazilian media are buzzing like flies about a virus called Zika ….” This week, media from all over the world are abuzz, because … well, because CDC, an official U.S. government agency, did a 180 degree turn and advised pregnant women not to travel to countries affected by Zika.

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

The bulk of mainstream media seem to believe that the Zika virus has caused thousands of cases of microcephalous births.

BUT (we repeat): There is no scientific “proof” that the Zika virus causes microcephaly in newborns. There is evidence of the presence of the virus in placentas and amniotic fluid, but there is no confirmed proof that the virus has caused any of the thousands of cases now being reported as microcephaly.

The official warnings are that it may yet be proven that Zika is a common cause of microcephaly. There are other suspected causes which cannot be ruled out. For instance, there are indications that Zika may be sexually transmitted — meaning sex between human beings. If true, that’s scary, because while there is a repellent that will work against mosquitos, nobody (save possibly the Roman Catholic Church) has yet attempted to invent a repellent to sex between consenting persons.

Research is the answer and research will continue.

The fact remains that, today, as The Curmudgeon faces his deadline, no one [and I mean absolutely no one] in Brazil or in the U.S. or in Chikungunya knows much of anything about Zika. Researchers on a roll hope to find something, but the most they can do is blame Aedes Aegypti, the Egyptian mosquito engendered a few thousand centuries before the Arab Spring.

In the meantime, don’t panic. Zika is still “dengue light”. It’s never caused any deaths, it’s never caused any serious after-effects in adults, it’s never been seen as much of a threat to anyone — it’s just been one of those annoyingly (if charmingly) named viruses that pop up from time to time and then go viral.

On the other hand, Zika virus may (once again, just “may”) have been the cause of babies being born with underdeveloped brains, and that is serious. There are a few countries (five at last count) that have told women: “Do Not Get Pregnant!” That sounds like rational advice, but as we have all known since we were teenagers decades (years, months, days) ago, hormones rage and rule.

The 2016 Olympics are coming in August, meaning thousands of female athletes, almost all of an age to bear children, will be in Rio. August is typically a dry month, and the authorities are now gearing up for an anti-Aedes Aegypti campaign throughout Brazil — house to house searches for uncovered clean stagnant water.

And, if we’re lucky, by August scientists and researchers will have learned much more about Zika and microcephaly.

POSTSCRIPT. The Curmudgeon retracts, and apologizes for, his inaccurate statement that, in all cases, microcephaly can be treated and children grow up normally. In some cases that is true. In other cases, sadly, it is not.

The Curmudgeon still believes that the media will push Zika to the back pages when they have more juicy political news to feed the public. He’s not sure that’s a good thing.


  1. There’s only one way that there will be any progress by August…Brazil needs to create a fund for research at the universities. Given that most scientific spending was blocked in the last quarter of 2015, they need to reverse that right away…the clock is ticking.

  2. In the same light, I believe that the banning of DDT was a snow jobs by Carlson. I think that now would be an excellent time to revisit the most effective pesticide against mosquitoes and scientifically evaluate it rather than rely on a novel that was half way between fact and fiction. It is estimated that the banning has been the indirect cause of over 50 million deaths, that in itself should be a good reason to rethink the process.

  3. We have a product Kulicide, from the UK, awaiting a test by WHO in Brazil – to substantiate 99.9% kill of the larvae, been waiting 3 months! Makes you wonder! There are big players in the market, like Sumitomo, who have it “sewn up” in Brazil with a product like Sumilarv.

  4. The fact that you, after making statememts like the one you had to retract, continue to write about something of which you obviously have no understanding is completely absurd. How is what you are doing any better than the “mainstream media” you speak of. All you are doing is further clouding and already cloudy issue with more misinformation.

    Playing the devil’s advocate just for the sake of it is not OPINION.

  5. This article is very good and aligned with WHO – I assumed- that will take a decision on next Monday with the Chiefs of boards from UN agencies dealing with the matters. I put this article on the line with Climate change and Human rights. The issue of poverty, wellbeing, growth, justice…which is very important in 21rst century for the low carbon society. As the 70% people expectation to live in city by 2050 is paramount. The article of the magazine related to a health warning (and a health plan) is informative about the need to grow economies by 70% in term of economic and none economic values and also facing industrial pollutions, stagnant waters, swamps, which are places for mosquito development cycle (but not for human beings), reducing city congestion and rethinking the country local national international governance.

  6. and YOU are willing to let pregnant wife or daughter be an “experiment?” Your position is uninformed, to say the least ..


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