Zika hysteria is way ahead of research into virus, says expert

Zika hysteria is way ahead of research into virus, says expert

Leslie Lobel says it’s unclear whether birth defects in Brazil are linked to Zika, and any panic can cause more harm than the virus itself

One of the world’s leading virologists has warned against public hysteria surrounding the Zika virus, saying global health authorities need to focus more broadly on prevention of infectious diseases rather than finding a cure for specific outbreaks.

Leslie Lobel, an Israeli physician who has worked with the US military and the Uganda Virus Research Institute to try to find a vaccine for Ebola, believes public panic over epidemics can cause more damage than the diseases themselves.

Most of the current alarm focuses on a suspected link between Zika and a foetal deformity known as microcephaly, which leads to babies being born with abnormally small heads. In Brazil, where there has been a rapid increase in reported cases of both Zika and microcephaly over the past six months, the government is convinced there is a causal association. The World Health Organisation has declared a global health emergency.

But many scientists, including Lobel, say the evidence is not yet conclusive. “It’s not clear that what’s going on in Brazil is linked to the Zika virus. There’s no definitive proof that Zika is causing microcephaly. I believe the hysteria is way ahead of the research or the facts about the pathology surrounding this virus,” he said in a telephone interview.

Doubts focus on the uneven spread of the disease and birth abnormalities. Almost all the linked cases are found in the north-east region of Brazil. Elsewhere, the Zika outbreak does not appear to have had the same impact. In neighbouring Colombia, which has more than 31,000 Zika cases, including at least 5,000 pregnant women, there has not been the same sharp rise in foetal deformities. There, the virus is more closely associated with Guillain–Barré syndrome, an immune system failure that can cause paralysis and death.

Lobel has studied Zika in Uganda, where it was first discovered in 1947 and had always been believed to be relatively benign. He says the apparently different impacts from place to place could be caused by the “drift” of the virus. “Their genetics mutate all the time. That’s how viruses tend to survive. They constantly change to adapt to the environment.”

Based in Ben-Gurion University, where he is chair of the virology department, Lobel will visit Brazil in a few months to collaborate with scientists in São Paulo on a study of Zika and its impact on the immune system. This could eventually help in the development of a vaccine, but he emphasises it is more important first to understand whether the disease is really causing microcephaly, or whether other factors might be jointly or solely responsible.

Doubts about the causes continue to spark controversy. This week, the state government of Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil banned the use of the larvicide pyriproxyfen after a report by the Argentinian group Physicians in Crop-Sprayed Towns suggested it might be causing the foetal brain deformities. Brazilian health authorities said there was no scientific basis for this claim. But Lobel said there was a strong possibility pesticides could be involved and this needed to be studied.

Most important, he said, was to strengthen global research networks to tackle all insect-born diseases. “If we can be ready for these things, we can predict them and we basically stop them from happening. It’s just like Ebola. We don’t need so many people to suffer to prevent these diseases. In other words, we have to stop putting out fires and start preventing them.”

On Wednesday, the WHO outlined its Zika action plan, saying that $56m (£39m) was needed to combat the virus from now until June, including fast-tracking vaccines and diagnostics.

The current panic over Zika, Lobel said, was a sign of how ill-prepared the world was for such epidemics, which meant it was always fighting the last outbreak rather than the next one. He believes the WHO declared an emergency with Zika this time because governments were nervous after failing to deal adequately with Ebola. Similarly, he said the US has suddenly announced almost $2bn in Zika research funding because it is worried the disease will head up through Mexico once the northern hemisphere summer arrives.

He believes the money could be spent more effectively to deal with future, more severe challenges. “There’s a lot that might be done that is not being done in a corrective way to control all disease, not just Zika. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are going to be a lot more.”

Compared to Ebola or dengue, he said Zika was not much to worry about other than for pregnant women, in which case it was prudent to take precautions until more is known about the risks and the possible link with microcephaly. “I don’t want to downplay this,” he said. “The association is very compelling, very clear. But we need a lot more work and we need to do it fast.”

In the meantime, Lobel calls for a measured response. “Hysteria is always unwanted. We need to educate. We need to make a calm response. We don’t want hysteria because that leads to massive social unrest, which can cause more damage than the virus itself.”

One comment

  • theunhivedmind

    If you want to prevent Mosquito issues then a dosage of Staphisagria 6c every four hours should be sufficient but if not then 30c may be needed but with less frequency. Mosquitos and other pests cannot stand the Staphisagria plant and its proven to work in homoeopathic form in about nine out of ten people and the same with animals.

    There’s absolutely no need to worry about the Zika virus, it’s a sixty year old or more virus with is fairly harmless. You’ll also struggle to find even a connection between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome. This Zika campaign is a over-hyped psychological operation which is just being trumped up to aid the following:

    * Population reduction quotas desired by the Club of Rome. Reductions aided by chemical warfare in the guise of pest control aerosol vectoring. Vaccines loaded with the typical poisons as well as nano bacteriophages and DNA CRISPR technologies. Lets not forget the abortion and contraception changes. Worldwide population controls in the form of a Novataris or Merck Zika vaccine using the Olympics as the illusion for the so-called spread of Zika on a wider scale.

    * Economic warfare on Brazil the ‘B’ of the BRICS New Development Bank competition to the insolvent and collapsing Trans-Atlantic monetary system. Prince Philip is trying his hardest to attempt to remove the B from the BRICS in a similar fashion to how he’s hindered Argentina by installing Macri over Kirchner. There’s even a possibility of the Olympics going back to London rather than Brazil but if that don’t work then the vaccines will be pushed worldwide and thus a win-win either way.

    * We could even witness further coup d’etats as Western forces take over nations like Venezuela utilizing WHO health powers like what both the U.S and Britain achieved in areas of Africa under the guise of the Ebola virus (most of which was achieved by poisoning water supplies with formaldehyde and using bad diagnosing equipment).

    The United States has around twenty-five thousand cases of brain microencephaly per year but did you know that? How about there supposedly being just six cases of brain microencephaly associated with Zika virus and that was from a total of four-thousand cases! I personally believe the Tdap vaccine for pregnant women is the problem even more than this pyriproxyfen insecticide but Brazil is riddled with many unregulated dangerous pesticides. Pregnant women should never be vaccinated regardless of what genocidal aiding maniacs claim these days.

    One thing’s for sure and that’s the fact that Zika has nothing to do with the deformities.

    .·´ ¸.·★¨) ¸.·☆¨)
    ★(¸.·´ (¸.*´ ¸.·´
    `·-☆ The Unhived Mind

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