Zika – February 2019
For our readers’ reference we want to start this discussion by recalling that it has been one century since a virus mutated and became a mass killer. That was a strain of H1N1 influenza A, nicknamed the Spanish flu. An estimated 50 million died worldwide as that pandemic swept around the world, and many more millions were sickened by this virus. Here is a reference from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that tells the story of this influenza pandemic: https://www.cdc.gov/features/1918-flu-pandemic/index.html.
The Zika virus is mosquito-borne. The virus mutates frequently, just as all viruses do. And it can do serious damage to people. It is especially threatening to the fetus of a pregnant mother. It causes conditions, including microcephaly, which spell tragedy for the infant and the family. When it deals such damage to children, Zika imposes huge societal costs measured in the many millions of dollars. All this is documented in the writings that now constitute the chapters of this pamphlet.
In my Zika research over the last four years, I traveled in the United States and visited Cuba. I also visited Argentina and the three-country border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. There are Zika-defense education efforts in Argentina and Brazil. Paraguay is poor, and I could not see any visible efforts to control Zika risk there.
Dr. Judy Monroe from the CDC Foundation discusses her role, Zika, Ebola, viral outbreaks, how they can do things governments can’t do and more with David Kotok. How can you help the CDC? We explore the role of the foundation for the CDC, including how they help fulfill and extend the CDC’s mission and challenges. The source of their funding will surprise many. Learn more about the CDC Foundation here: https://www.cdcfoundation.org/
Watch the discussion via the player or at this link:
When I went to Cuba, I interviewed doctors and watched mosquito control being applied. I walked with mosquito-spraying teams that were using cypermethrin, a low-toxicity insecticide. The stories about Cuba using DDT are not true, as far as I could determine. Americans have been skeptical about why there were so few reported Zika cases in Cuba while there were thousands in Puerto Rico. Many detractors have blamed a purposeful campaign in Cuba to lie about the facts, but what I encountered was an extensive, broad-based program to combat Zika. The reason that Cuba is so committed in this effort to fight mosquito-borne diseases is rather simple. The health professionals I interviewed in Cuba explained that, while Cuba is a poor country, it has promised its citizens lifetime free national healthcare. Their approach is to focus on preventive medicine because it is an approach they can execute with ample workers and limited money. Note that Cuba exports healthcare worker services and has a large population of trained doctors and nurses.
We would like to end this introduction on a lighter note, with an optimistic outlook. Sadly, we cannot do that. The political impasse in the United States continues as this is written. There is a fierce, corrosive divide between the two major political parties. There is no easy mechanism for this situation to change in a system that is heavily gerrymandered and intensely funded by large contributors who wield outsized influence over policies. Self-interest seems to prevail over common good.
For the ordinary citizen that means there is a greater need for self-reliance and less dependence on help from government. That includes issues focused on health and specifically threats like mosquito-borne diseases.
Zika will be around for a while longer. And it will mutate. Whether it, or some other virus, will again threaten millions of people remains to be seen. We must be vigilant while also respecting the history lesson of the Spanish flu a hundred years after it arrived with a vengeance.
We hope readers find this Zika pamphlet worthwhile and helpful. It is our gift, and we are reproducing it at our cost. Thank you for taking the time to read it.