The Zika virus is now an unfolding pandemic, threatening to lead to the birth of thousands of deformed and neurologically impaired babies; as well as to paralysis, eye problems and other disorders in adults; and to massive healthcare costs over the coming decades. It may also be caused in part by intensive cattle farming.
How Zika affects babies
* The virus feeds on cells that normally become baby brain cells, turning them into Zika virus production factories. Nerve cells that control hearing, vision, memory, balance, etc. are destroyed. (The misshapen head of a microcephalic babies is due to the brain being so eaten away.)
* Dr. Camila Ventura tells a meeting of the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics in Atlanta that the babies she’s been studying in Brazil become extremely irritable, even inconsolable, and “cannot stop crying.”
* At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with brain damage caused by the Zika virus. No one knows what this is going to mean for them and other children and their parents and their communities over the years ahead – except that the numbers are going to multiply.
* Most of the afflicted babies are still too young for doctors to know things like whether they’ll be able to walk and talk, hold their heads upright, and recognize their parents. So we have no idea yet what the lives of these babies are going to be like. Some may be unable even to swallow.
Could the cattle industry be involved?
“We suspect that something more than Zika virus is causing the high intensity and severity of cases,” Fatima Marinho, director of information and health analysis at Brazil’s Health Ministry, tells the journal Nature.
Dr. Marinho suspects that the cattle-farming industry may indeed be involved, and is looking into the question of whether Bovine Viral Diarrhea has combined with Zika to cause birth defects.
How it’s spreading in the U.S.
* Five thousand cases of locally-transmitted Zika have already erupted in Puerto Rico. Within a few months from now, tens of thousands of people there will be suffering from symptoms and side effects of Zika, including mild fevers and rashes, paralysis, miscarriage, and giving birth to deformed babies.
* The number of people in the United States have contracted Zika is likely a lot higher than federal health officials have been estimating. Researchers using computer modeling write that there must have been nearly 30,000 cases of travel-related Zika in the country in mid-June. That’s 25 times more cases than the CDC reported at the time.
Scientists are baffled as to how this could have happened and what it may portend.* It’s been known for some time that women can contract Zika directly from men through sexual contact. Now men are also contracting it from women.
* 41 members of the U.S. military have been diagnosed since testing began earlier this year.
* Thanks to climate change, the mosquito breeding season in 76 percent of U.S. cities, is longer than it used to be 35 years ago.
* The first person to die from Zika in the U.S. was on July 8th in Salt Lake City. A few days later, a person who had been caring for the patient was diagnosed with Zika. And since no sexual contact had taken place and no Zika-carrying mosquitoes are known to exist in Utah, scientists are baffled – and worried – as to how this could have happened and what it may portend.
How Congress is behaving
* Five months ago, the White House asked Congress for $1.9 billion of emergency funding to address the threat of a pandemic. To this day, no funds have been forthcoming. Instead, after months of the usual counterproposals and grandstanding related to special interests (e.g. the “pro-life” lobby and how Planned Parenthood might be involved), the whole Congress simply headed for the hills and their summer vacations.
In an open letter to Congress, pandemic expert and Pulitzer-winning journalist Laurie Garrett writes:
“Partisan bickering about the lives of American babies is unconscionable … This is a pandemic in progress. Reconvene immediately and get the job — your job — done. Failure to do so will mean that every Zika-related birth defect, miscarriage, and paralysis case will be your fault.”