Every few weeks, news about the Zika virus outbreak pops back up. A recent news story stated that a child born in Costa Rica with microcephaly (small head) may have a Zika connection. As we move into summer, with its hot weather and mosquitos, the fear is that along with the mosquitos will come a fresh outbreak of Zika here in the U.S. All the agitation in the press might lead to an obvious question:
“Is Zika Really a Thing?”
Well, microcephaly is real, and Zika is real. The connection between the two may not be, however. Each story about a microcephaly baby contains words like, “may” or “possible,” simply because there is question as to whether the mosquitos and Zika are causing the microcephaly. To complicate matters, a group of doctors in Brazil have suggested that the malformations in children may not be connected to Zika at all, but rather to an insecticide that has been applied to water sources used for drinking and household use. The insecticide, pyriproxyfen, is a “growth inhibitor” of the developing mosquito larvae, which raises questions as to whether it may be a growth inhibitor in developing humans, as well.
At Uchee Pines, we have advocated prudent caution regarding health risks. While birth defects are commonly linked to chemical exposure, and that certainly could be a plausible explanation for the microcephaly, viruses certainly have a link to defects, as well. It would be prudent to use care to prevent excessive exposure to either the mosquitos or the insecticide. Mosquitos can be blocked or avoided with physical barriers and natural repellents, and water can be purified with activated charcoal or other filtering methods to remove chemical contamination. While hysteria is not called for, one should certainly be careful, especially while waiting for the verdict on the mosquito-borne virus.