Yesterday, February 12, 2016, the Puerto Rico government succumbed to the pressure put forth by the international media (or was it the $$ promised by the federals) and declared Puerto Rico in a state of emergency due to the Zika virus.
To date, there has been 30 confirmed cases in Puerto Rico. The symptoms are said to be mild in comparison with Dengue or Chikungunya, or non existent to many. All three diseases are carried by the same mosquito, Aedes Aegypti, but they are different. Zika is much milder.
This is an example of how a headline can feed a crisis: Washington Post, “CDC: Puerto Rico seeing mounting cases of Zika virus infection”. The article refers to cases jumping from one in December to 30 by end of January. The same article reads: “Four patients have been hospitalized, but most have reported only minor symptoms, such as rash, joint pain or eye pain.” You don’t see that part on the headlines.
Dengue fever has been in Puerto Rico since 1915 and is the cause of several deaths annually. According to the PR Department of Health the worst was in 2010 when PR suffered 33 deaths due to Dengue. http://www.salud.gov.pr/Sobre-tu-Salud/Pages/Condiciones/Dengue.aspx
Chikungunya arrived in Puerto Rico in 2013 and spread like fire around the island causing crippling joint pain. No international crisis was declared. No state of emergency and no warning to travelers. This is all that the CDC has to say about Chikungunya: “In late 2013, chikungunya virus was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean. There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with chikungunya virus, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens.”
And this is what the WHO has to say about Chikungunya: “Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs.” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs327/en/
The good thing about Chikungunya is that you only get it once. So every year there should be less and less new cases. “Recovery from an infection will confer life-long immunity.” http://www.who.int/denguecontrol/arbo-viral/other_arboviral_chikungunya/en/
But lets get back to Zika:
According to the CDC: “About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika)” and, “The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.” http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/
There is no proven link of Zika with microcephaly or with Gullian-Barre syndrome according with the WHO and CDC. Links below:
“There is currently no evidence that Zika virus infection poses a risk of birth defects in future pregnancies.” http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35441675
“We do not yet know if there is a connection between GBS and Zika virus infection. It is difficult to determine if any particular pathogen or germ “causes” Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). ” http://www.cdc.gov/zika/qa/gbs-qa.html
“With the proposed connection between the Zika virus and Brazil’s outbreak of microcephaly in new born babies looking increasingly tenuous, Latin American doctors are proposing another possible cause: Pyriproxyfen, a pesticide used in Brazil since 2014 to arrest the development of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks. Might the ‘cure’ in fact be the poison?” http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987137/argentine_and_brazilian_doctors_suspect_mosquito_insecticide_as_cause_of_microcephaly.html
Why the scare with Zika today when only 1 in 5 get mildly sick and we don’t have a proof of anything yet? While there is currently no cure for Dengue or Chikungunya and no big efforts to get one either, a frantic search is now underway for a Zika vaccine.
“Zika epidemic prompts pharma rush to develop vaccine”, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2cba3338-d1b8-11e5-986a-62c79fcbcead.html#axzz404YhYeEd
Bottom line, somebody is about to make a huge profit out of Zika.
Meanwhile, we at the trenches here in the tropical paradise of Vieques will continue to use the same measures we have used for years to prevent mosquito transmitted diseases: take care of standing waters, use repellents when we go to populated areas where we are most likely to encounter an infected mosquito, and cover our arms and legs close to sundown when mosquitoes like to feed.
A great repellent I always recommend because it is effective against the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and also against the no-see-ums, is OFF Deep Woods, the green can, not the orange one.
So, be smart, keep on beaching and buy stock in pharma.