My Thoughts On The Zika Virus

zika-virus

Don’t panic. Why? Because it’s not as bad as you’re being led to believe. Here’s why:

The Zika Virus is not a new virus that just randomly popped up on Earth only a few months ago. It was officially recognized in 1947, when it was identified in Uganda. There had been no outbreaks of the Zika Virus outisde of the African Continent till 2007, when it spread to the South Pacific.

The virus has been known to cause birth defects in developing babies in the womb. Outside of this, people infected with the Zika Virus may have the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Redness in the white part of the eyes
  • Joint pain
  • Vomitting

How long do these symptoms last for? About the time for a typical cold. As WebMD reports:

All can cause a variety of flu-like symptoms that range in severity and can last from a few days to more than a week.

How long does the Virus ITSELF last, you ask?

There’s no treatment, but Adalja says most people with symptoms do well with over-the-counter medications for aches and pains. The disease usually runs its course within a week or so.

Second opinion:

Zika infection usually stays in your blood for a few days to a week, but it has been found in an infected man’s semen more than 3 months after symptoms started.

Zika + Microecephaly

Now, let us talk about Zika and Microecephaly. Most people don’t even know what the latter is. What is it?

Microcephaly (my-kroh-SEF-uh-lee) is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. Sometimes detected at birth, microcephaly usually is the result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb or not growing as it should after birth.

What is the  supposed link to Zika Virus? Well, it is theorized that the Virus causes defects in the developing baby that leads to Microecephaly. It is certainly being seen that, in Brazil, the number of cases of Microecephaly are going up. As the New York Times reports:

In the last few months, the nation has been grappling with a growing surge in medical reports of microcephaly, a rare condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads. According to data released this week by the Ministry of Health, there have been 4,783 reported cases since October last year.

Before that, the nation had about 150 annually.

Now, that seems lik a dramatic increase. To go up from 150 on an anual basis to over 4700 is a sign that something is up. Something is indeed up. As the Times also reported:

But how many of the babies actually have microcephaly — and whether the condition was caused by the Zika virus — is still far from clear.

Of the cases examined so far, 404 have been confirmed as having microcephaly.

Only 17 of them tested positive for the Zika virus. But the government and many researchers say that number may be largely irrelevant, because their tests would find the presence of the virus in only a tiny percentage of cases.

An additional 709 babies have been ruled out as having microcephaly, according to the government, underscoring the risks of false positives making the epidemic appear larger than it actually is.

The remaining 1,113 cases are still being investigated.

So, that’s what happening in Brazil, but what’s happening elsewhere in areas hit by the Zika Virus? Let’s look to Columbia, where a study was published by the New England Complex Systems Institute:

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine published the preliminary results of a large study of pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika. Of the nearly 12,000 pregnant women with clinical symptoms of Zika infections until March 28, no cases of microcephaly were reported as of May 2. At the same time, four cases of Zika and microcephaly were reported for women who were symptomless for Zika infections and therefore not included in the study itself.

The NECSI report analyzes the data and shows that the four cases of Zika and microcephaly that have been observed till April 28 are just what would be expected due to the background rate — of the 60,000 pregnancies about 20,000 births would already be expected. The expected microcephaly rate for countries with no reported infections of 2-in-10,000 births gives exactly four cases. The study also notes that until April 28 there has been a total of about 50 microcephaly cases in Colombia, of which only four have been connected with Zika. The four cases are expected for the coincidence of Zika and microcephaly in the same pregnancies even if Zika is not the cause.

So, there’s evidence that maybe the Zika Virus is linked to Microecephaly, and there is evidence that it may not be linked with it. Unfortunately, there still is going to need to be more research done on the matter. And research costs money, which is the next subject I want to segway into: Congressional funding.

Zika Virus + Cure Funding

The Obama Administration has been pushing for weeks to have an emergency spending package of $1.9 Billion approved by Congress to fund efforts to combat the Zika Virus. But Congress left Washington DC on their August break before passing the said bill, resulting in it’s current in-limbo status.

That’s at least,  a somewhat right view on this situation. You see, earlier on, a $1.1 Billion spending package to combat the Zika Virus was already being pushed through by Republicans, eager to fight the Zika Virus. What happened to it? Democrats fillibustered it, and it was brought down. Why?

The House-Senate measure matches the $1.1 billion measure that passed the Senate last month on a sweeping vote, but Democrats oppose a handful of provisions designed to mollify GOP conservatives in the House and the attachment of companion spending cuts to defray its cost.

What specifically did the Dems not like about the bill? The bill would not have allowed for new Planned Parenthood (a happy place) funding and would have eased rules created following the Clean Water Act, which deal with the use of pesticides by municipalities.

Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has begun to redirect unused Ebola funds to the Zika Virus. Weird. Why wasn’t that money used for Ebola when it was a big, bad thing that needed to be stopped?

As the Daily Signal point out:

Not all of the unused Ebola money was redirected to fight Zika. Heritage Foundation budget expert Paul Winfree said there is significantly more money available to tap from unused Ebola funds.

“The president’s request for Zika could be paid for with Ebola funds,” Winfree said in a statement. “In total, there are about $2.77 billion in unobligated balances from the 2015 fiscal year Ebola emergency supplemental appropriation that could be used towards a Zika response. However, by using the Zika emergency supplemental to move the proposal forward, the president seems to be trying to capitalize on the recent disease outbreak in order to get his proposed policy through while avoiding having to pay for the policy change.”

The President could get far funding than he originally dreamed of, if he used the Ebola funds not spent, but allocated for the crisis. Now, for one, I do not believe he has the power to do ths anyways, as it would (Constitutionally) take a bill from Congress to carry this out. However, when has the President actually cared about that?

Zika is going to be used by the corrupt politicians to further help their buddies in the pharmacutical industry. There really shouldn’t be much of a doubt about this. It seems pretty obvious. The outbreak of Zika hear will not be like that of Brazil. The handling of symptoms will be more easy. The detection of the virus is more capable here. $1.1 Billion already seems like a lot, let alone amounts like $1.9 or even $2.77 Billion. These seem a little bit excessive, and that’s coming from someone who live in South Florida.

In parting, I shall simply leave you with the wise thoughts of Adrian Wyllie, who shared his thought about the funding of Zika and it’s development here in the US:

OK, everyone who is concerned with Zika, let’s run some numbers.

First, let’s assume that the Zika outbreak in the US becomes as severe as it is in Brazil, the hardest-hit country. That scenario is highly unlikely due to our improved standard of living and sanitation. But, for the sake of argument, lets use the worst-case scenario.

In the first three months of 2016, Brazil has recorded a total of 91,387 suspected cases of Zika. Again for the sake of argument, we’ll go with suspected cases, as opposed to confirmed cases. If we extrapolate that to an annual infection rate, and even assume an infection growth rate of 25%, we would expect to see roughly 390,000 cases by year end.

Brazil has a population of 200.4 million people. So, if you live in Brazil, you have a 0.2% chance of contracting Zika, or roughly 1 in 500 chance in an outbreak year.

About 4 million women become pregnant and give birth in the US each year. So, if we assume the absolute worst possible outbreak in the US, which is very unlikely, 0.2% of them would contract Zika.

So, out of those 4 million pregnant women, 8,000 would contract Zika. While comprehensive studies show that only 1 out of 100 infected women give birth to children with microcephaly, recent estimates are that the number may be as high as 13 out of 100. So, again, we’ll use the worst-case numbers.

That means, if we have a complete epidemic level of Zika in the US, we are likely to see 1,040 babies born with microcephaly caused by Zika per year.

That would still only place Zika-related microcephaly very low on the list of birth defects. It would rank many times lower than Autism, and considerably lower than Down Syndrome, cleft lip/palate, spina bifida, congenital heart defects, and intestinal atresia/stenosis.

So, even with a worst-case outbreak of Zika in the US, the likelihood of having a child with microcephaly would still be dramatically lower than other common birth defects.

The federal government spends roughly $20 million per year for funding of birth defect research.

There is a proposal to budget $1.9 billion on Zika research. That’s nearly 100 times more than all other birth defect research funding combined.

If the spending were proportional to funding for other birth defects, Zika research funding should be roughly 1/5000th of that amount. Much of that money will end up in the hands of pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

Now, can you really tell me that it’s about the children?

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