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The scourge of Zika

March 2016

As the Zika virus spreads, experts are warning against unnecessary abortions.

Recent news that the virus has sexually transmitted from an infected American citizen to his partner in Texas, US, has given the medical community further dimensions to consider.

The Zika virus recently emerged in Brazil, causing people to abandon travel plans for fear of getting bitten by an infected mosquito — thought to be the way of contracting the virus until the Texas case came to light.

The virus has been linked to microcephaly in newborns. Microcephaly, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital, occurs when a child’s brain doesn’t grow properly, leading to retarded growth in the skull. Many, but not all, children with microcephaly, experience neurological and cognitive problems.

Causes

To date, microcephaly has been rare, but there are concerns the outbreak will spread widely. This is based on the increase of microcephaly in babies in Brazil: up from a few hundred cases a year, during 2010-2014, to 3,500 in 2015. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recorded 4180 suspected cases of microcephaly since October 2015. Only 462 of these have been confirmed, with the cause still unproven, but the WHO strongly suspects Zika.

Nobody knows how the mosquitoes became affected by the virus, but some scientific reports point a finger at the release of genetically modified mosquitoes during 2012. There is, however, no conclusive proof as yet that this is the reason.

The Mirror reports that genes were modified in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which were then released to combat the spread of dengue fever and other diseases in Brazil. But, in 2014, the Permaculture Institute warned about their release.

An article by Dr Mae Wan Ho warned that their enzymes could attack other organisms, and concluded, ‘They are among the most hazardous GMOs (genetically modified organisms) created, and should never be released into the wild on any commercial basis’.

Outcomes

The WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, the fourth such declaration since the system was established in 2005; and only 6 months before the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

It has called on member states to work together to eradicate the virus. While people are now avoiding Brazil and surrounding countries, there is still the risk of higher rates of abortion.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has stated that the spread of the Zika virus is no reason to promote abortion. It said pro-abortion lawyers in Brazil are calling for abortion where mothers may have contracted the virus, without proof the child is at risk.

SPUC spokesman Paul Tully said: ‘Killing the babies affected is not prevention and won’t prevent more cases. Rather, families should be supported and steps should be taken to establish evidence for the cause of the condition, so effective steps to prevent it can be put in place.

‘The abortion lobby is playing on the fears of expectant mothers to promote its own agenda, which includes discrimination against disabled children’.

Hope

The BBC has highlighted the case of Brazilian journalist Ana Carolina Caceres, 24, who was born with microcephaly.

Ana’s academic success — despite the doctor telling her mother the baby ‘had no chance of survival’ — has prompted her to speak out. She told the BBC, ‘People need to put their prejudices aside. I survived, as do others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist’.

While the WHO searches for answers to this scourge, we must remember that all human life is precious: ‘Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward’ (Psalm 127:3).

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