Last month, the CDC finally admitted the Zika virus is “scarier” than they initially thought.
Up until about a month ago, public health officials told us not to worry too much about it in the U.S. They said the mosquitoes that spread Zika don’t come this far north.
But that’s simply untrue. And it doesn’t account for the spread of the virus through sexual contact.
They mainly directed their warnings to Americans traveling to Brazil for Carnival and the Olympics this summer. And they said they planned to spend some money on mosquito control in Puerto Rico, which sits just miles off the coast of Florida.
Actually, it looked to me like the White House wanted to use the $1.9 billion in emergency funds primarily to bail out bankrupt Puerto Rico after decades of fiscal mismanagement (since Congress wouldn’t fund another bail out), instead of actually fighting Zika.
I knew the government delusion about Zika had to come to an end at some point, especially given the seriousness of the situation in Puerto Rico.
As of this writing, almost 500 men and women have come down with Zika in Puerto Rico. And that number grows daily. Only about one in five people with Zika develop symptoms, so most of those with the virus are unaware they’ve been infected, according to the CDC. Plus, the local mosquitoes in Puerto Rico do carry the virus, which speeds transmission.
Evidence now links the virus to a wider array of birth defects in the children of mothers infected during pregnancy — including stillbirths, miscarriages, premature births, blindness, eye problems, and small brain size (microcephaly).
In adults, the virus can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome in which the body’s immune cells attack its own nervous system, causing paralysis. A new study found Zika also causes another autoimmune disorder called “acute disseminated encephalomyelitis,” which resembles multiple sclerosis, with swelling of the brain and spinal cord. Zika appears to hone in on brain cells and kill them.
Mosquitoes that transmit Zika DO live in the U.S.
The CDC also now admits the mosquitoes that carry the virus are present in 30 U.S. states. They say that is “more than twice as many states as what officials originally thought.” But last month, on my own, I was able to easily find reliable data that the mosquitoes were already present in 23 states, and the District of Columbia.
Only one locally acquired case has been reported in the U.S. At this point, most of the prior confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S. are in people who had traveled to Zika-prone countries. Of these cases, 32 were in pregnant women and seven were sexually transmitted.
These numbers are worrisome. Especially since mosquito season has yet to get underway in the U.S. So mosquitos haven’t even begun to breed, bite, and pass the infection here.
Just wait a month for mosquito season, and I have no doubt we will hear another urgent announcement from public health officials that, “surprise,” things are getting even “scarier.”
Zika could continue to mutate
Plus, when viruses travel from one climate and ecological zone to another, and from one population to another, genetic factors in the population and in the virus itself can alter the course of the pandemic — for better or worse. So we could see yet another genetic mutation as it spreads to the U.S. In fact, one CDC official recently admitted, birth defects could be “the tip of the iceberg.”
The characteristics of Zika infections have already changed from its discovery in Uganda in 1947…to widespread but largely “silent” infections in Asia…to emerging complications in the South Pacific. Finally, Zika “exploded” in Brazil during Carnival season, before setting up in Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, the CDC’s “new” wake-up call will just mean even more taxpayer money.
The CDC and NIH still have $589 million in unspent funds left over from the Ebola outbreak. Responsible members of Congress want the CDC and NIH to use those funds now to get the job started on Zika. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH says, “that’s not enough.” When it comes to the U.S. government spending taxpayer dollars, the answer to “how much,” is always “never enough.”
Really — we don’t know yet whether the Zika virus will become a real public health crisis or whether it will eventually fizzle out. How do they know Zika will be better or worse than Ebola, given their track record?
This mosquito season will reveal what we are really up against in the continental U.S. In the meantime, you can learn all about how to prevent getting bitten by mosquitos — which carry the Zika virus, the far-more-deadly-to-date West Nile virus, and other dangerous infectious diseases — in the May issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re a subscriber, you can access this article on my website, www.drmicozzi.com, with your username and password. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
“The Emerging Zika Virus Epidemic in the Americas: : Research Priorities,” JAMA (www.jamanetwork.com) 3/9/2016