Scientists have been predicting it all along: As the climate changes dramatically, we’re going to see diseases where we’ve never seen them before, where people have no antibodies. I for one would like to grab those “pro life” climate deniers by the shoulders and shake some sense into them: “See what you’ve done?”
Before last fall, medical reports of babies born with brain damage and unusually small heads — a condition known as microcephaly — were so uncommon in Brazil that only about 150 cases were registered each year in the entire country. Now Brazilian officials are investigating thousands of them, and they contend that the mosquito-borne Zika virus is the cause.
Virus specialists are racing to understand the connection, if any, between Zika and the rash of microcephaly cases in Brazil, an undertaking that international officials warn could take six months or more.
But whatever the cause, “There is no doubt that Brazil is experiencing a significant increase in microcephaly,” said an official for Brazil’s Health Ministry who was not authorized to speak publicly. “We wouldn’t have declared this situation a health emergency if this increase had not been detected.”
The Zika epidemic has spread much faster than science’s understanding of it. Researchers here believe that the virus made the leap from Polynesia to Brazil during the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament. Since then, as many as 1.5 million people in Brazil are believed to have been infected, and the virus has spread to more than 20 countries and territories in the Americas.
Right now, the epidemic is happening in a country where women don’t have access to either birth control or abortion. Nor do they live in a society that can support the special care needed for these families. I don’t think any country is set up to deal with this. It is a nightmare.