FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Zika Hysteria Spreads Faster than Zika Itself

Zika has been described as extraordinary in so many ways. But the only thing that’s really extraordinary about the whole thing is how incredibly dispassionate I am about it.

At this point, even extraterrestrials have probably heard that the World Health Organization declared the recent spread of the Zika virus an international public health emergency. That sounds pretty scary. It’s only the fourth time that the WHO has ever declared a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) so it seems like it ought to be a big deal.

However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. As of May 4, there were 1,278 confirmed cases of microcephaly, the birth defect linked to Zika virus infection that causes an abnormally small head and brain. There are approximately 250 suspected neonatal and fetal deaths. In comparison, the last PHEIC was the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014. The current total number of reported cases of Ebola is 28,616 causing 11,310 deaths. Finally, the WHO estimates that the annual run-of-the-mill flu season – not famous epidemics like the Swine Flucauses 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year around the world.

graph_0.preview

I understand how Zika tugs on our heartstrings. Babies are precious, innocent, and full of potential. But I would like to point out that children are also precious and worth protecting and I have yet to see a media blitz or public outcry as passionate for the over 300,000 children who suffer from physical abuse every year in the United States alone.

So I’ve put to together my top three list of the facts that are actually extraordinary about the Zika PHEIC:

1) Very few people are talking about how the Zika virus will disproportionately affect poor women.

Despite the fact that viruses and mosquitos will attack humans regardless of how fancy their car is, poor communities suffer more from mosquito-borne illnesses. Communities of poverty have inadequate infrastructure that leads to a variety of ways that water can pool and mosquitoes can breed. Without running water, people are more likely to store water in basins and tanks. Shoddy, makeshift architecture creates areas where water can pool. Additionally, without glass windows and air conditioning, there are no barriers to mosquitos entering crowded dwellings.

Furthermore, unlike the mosquito that transmits Malaria, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, does most of its feeding during the day. This means that one of the cheapest preventative measures that has been used in the past, sleeping under a mosquito net, is ineffective.

In the United States, a rich country prone to hysteria, we continue to focus on the privileged while others go ignored. We fret about the possibility of Zika spreading to the Southern states while forgetting the fact that it has already spread to Puerto Rico. While not all of the citizens of Puerto Rico are poor, they are all uniformly disenfranchised and exploited by the US government.

Explaining how the Zika virus disproportionately affects women seems silly given how obvious it is, which is why its so incredibly strange that most of the coverage seems to portray this as a emergency for all members of society. In reality it’s more like hiccup for society and an emergency for some disadvantaged women.

2) Governments and organizations think that “Just Don’t” policies are effective

El Salvador has handled the situation by advising all women to not get pregnant for the next two years. The CDC has recommended that because the virus can be transmitted through sperm, men who have had a symptomatic Zika virus infection (which by the way is very difficult to confirm so even mild cold symptoms could be Zika) not have sex for 6 months. These people have clearly taken a page out of the playbook of our “abstinence only” friends.

3) Few have actually used the Zika virus to address issues of substance such as access to healthcare.

I’m unmoved by Zika in the same way that I’m unmoved by school shootings. They are devastating events that I wish never happened. But I refuse to focus on these tragedies instead of focusing on the daily atrocities that we are blind to. It’s hard for me to get all fired up about one crazy person with a gun when there is a whole nation of police officers out there with guns actively shooting people everyday.

But I do think it’s worth leveraging moments that capture the collective consciousness to advocate for bigger issues.

Even in countries that have counseled women to not get pregnant, there has been very little movement in increasing access to healthcare and contraception. For women who are already pregnant, there has been no significant increase in prenatal care. For children who have been born with birth defects, there has been no increase in special needs programs.

Many of the countries that Zika is impacting already have the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. In El Salvador and Nicaragua abortion is not allowed even in cases of rape, incest, or risk to maternal/fetal health. In Brazil, the country with the highest burden of Zika, abortion is legal only in cases of rape and danger to maternal life.

Furthermore, the birth defects that are caused by Zika are not identifiable until the late second trimester, far beyond the gestational limit in most countries. In places where second trimester abortions are legal, typically access is so poor, it might as well be unavailable.

While a small number women’s health activists in Brazil are using Zika to improve abortion laws, there have been no such movements in other countries or internationally.

I’ve been told that I’m callous. I’ve been told that I don’t care about women. In fact, it’s the opposite. I care so much about women and public health that I refuse to be distracted by the Zika virus. I care so much about women that I would hate to see precious resources funneled into a media campaign about avoid pregnancy instead of increasing contraception and healthcare access. I care so much about poverty that I can’t bear to miss this opportunity to improve housing infrastructure.

Let’s keep talking about Zika, but only if it’s in the context of catalyzing larger social change.

More articles by:

JESS GUH, MD is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative news site.

September 25, 2018
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail