Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Zika Virus Claims Don't Pan Out: What Is Really Going On?

Is all of the Zika Virus hysteria just a marketing campaign to sell millions of new vaccines? It is looking more like a false alarm as every week goes by.

As weeks pass,  excess microcephaly cases have not appeared in other countries with Zika Virus outbreaks. If the hypothesis were correct, Columbia should be seeing hundreds of cases by now - but so far they are still within the usual range, according to PAHO WHO's latest update on July 7th.

In Brazil itself, the original thousands of cases turn out not to be associated with Zika after all.
So far, only 255 cases have been confirmed with laboratory data. An additional 1401 cases are cited as associated (but without any lab testing to confirm). A whopping 7,000 microcephaly cases in Brazil are confirmed to be due to other causes - in many cases unknown.

There is no commercial test for Zika, and Zika looks like its close relative Dengue in blood antibody tests, Only a few government labs can review blood samples, so "getting results takes weeks".

To put this in perspective, approximately 25,000 babies in the United States will be diagnosed with microcephaly every year. Some of these babies will grow and develop normally (nearly 90% of those with mild microcephaly will not have any deficits), and some babies born with normal sized heads will become microcephalic after injury or illness. Genetics also play a strong role. And much of the time, the cause remains unknown. Even the criteria for measuring microcephaly varies.

Yet the media campaign trundles on, and even has a new "ZikaCommunicationNetwork" website with "curated resources" for professional health workers that admits the unknowns:
"... to help health and development professionals minimize the spread of Zika and related negative pregnancy outcomes using four key strategies:
*Social behavior change communication (SBCC)
*Vector control
*Delivery of maternal and child health and family planning services
*Research and development
There are many unknowns about the effects of Zika on pregnancy outcomes. We do not know, if a pregnant woman is exposed to Zika, how likely she is to actually contract the virus. We do not know, if a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, how likely she is to pass it on to her fetus. And we do not know, if her fetus is infected, whether, or at what point in the pregnancy, the infection will result in birth defects."   
But here is the marketing part that gets used to fool the public:
"One thing we do know is that a couple of weeks ago, a baby girl was born in the U.S. with Zika and severe microcephaly..."
So there is the narrative, in which the South American mother deliberately traveled to the US after learning her baby was microcephalic and Zika-positive, is used as a trigger to blot out the lack of scientific evidence, to make us imagine this is a danger everywhere, and to persuade us that all cases of Zika result in severe brain defects.   Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has jumped at the chance to pressure Brazil and other Catholic countries to legalize child sacrifice, and is once again pushing their money-making agenda: the UNFPA asking for $10 Million from the US and other governments.

In the past few weeks, I've noticed that the word "microcephaly" is no longer being highlighted, there is a sort of pretense that Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) was the "real" problem all along, and babies born to women who had Zika Virus are said to have something undefined called "Congenital syndrome associated with Zika virus infection". Those are serious conditions, and it is important to be vigilant, but are these just more guesswork, without scientific underpinnings?  Only time will tell.

The troublesome things are not only that something is causing an increase in microcephaly - but  that Brazil's rate of microcephaly was already high.  Investigation of the true cause is being ignored.  Or is it? 

No big conspiracy, but epidemiological reality, according to medical investigators: nearly always, the cause of outbreak clusters is never discovered. Over time, myths and educated guesses fill in the vacuum as a substitute for real knowledge. That is the assessment of experts studying an ongoing epidemic of a similar, fatal birth defect called "anencephaly" in the Yakima Valley, Washington State:

"...investigating a birth-defects cluster is difficult, and often futile. It’s challenging to collect the data and even tougher to prove a cause, said Sever, the retired CDC birth-defects expert who lives in Seattle. “The problem with birth defects is that, with very few exceptions, there are no smoking guns,” said Sever."

In Brazil, some researchers say the incidence of microcephaly started climbing long before Zika made its appearance:

"Since 2012, Mattos’s team found, a strikingly large number of babies—4 percent to 8 percent—appeared to have microcephaly, according to the broadest definitions of the term. Additionally, the number of babies affected peaked in 2014, before Zika had been detected in Brazil.

"Another study of roughly 1,000 babies born in eight states in Brazil from July to December 2007 found the prevalence of microcephaly to be 2.8 percent.

There's also disagreement about what criteria to use in diagnosis, which can lead to disparate reporting. A 2009 study of the accuracy of reporting birth defects in Brazil found that microcephaly was under-reported by 75%. 

In addition to genetic conditions, malnutrition, use of alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, there are viruses that have long been known to contribute to microcephaly in babies. These include rubella - which both the USA and Brazil vaccinate against - and two other infections that have high rates in both the US and Brazil: Congenital toxoplasmosis, and Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV).

The CDC has this to say about CMV:

"In the United States, nearly one in three children are already infected with CMV by age 5 years. Over half of adults by age 40 have been infected with CMV. Once CMV is in a person's body, it stays there for life and can reactivate. Most people infected with CMV show no signs or symptoms. However, CMV infection can cause serious health problems for people with weakened immune systems, as well as babies infected with the virus before they are born (congenital CMV).

"A 2009 study in Brazil found that fully 26.4% of all infants with congenital CMV were also microcephalic (22 out of 87). In this study, 1.8% of all babies were infected with CMV through their mothers.(confirmed in 87 out of 8047 infants).   55.2% of all mothers who had CMV also had other chronic conditions "

What is the CDC's recommendation to protect American mothers from CMV while pregnant? Is it for Congress to allocate a billion dollars for research? Is it to bring the mothers to the best research hospitals?  Nope. It is that "Regular hand washing, particularly after changing diapers, is a commonly recommended step to decrease the spread of infections, and may reduce exposures to CMV. "

The NIH goes further:  "Avoid kissing children under the age of 6 on the mouth or cheek.
Do not share food, drinks, or eating utensils with young children.  Pregnant women working in a day care center should work with children older than age 2½."

Here's the NIH's info on just how dangerous CMV is:

"Congenital CMV infection is the most common intrauterine infection in the United States with direct annual costs of over one billion dollars. The live birth prevalence of congenital CMV infection in the developed world is 0.6–0.7% . Of those infected, 10% are symptomatic as neonates  with the majority surviving the initial infection; however, greater than 90% develop long-term neurological [problems] including:
    .....hearing loss (unilateral and bilateral), mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and impaired vision..... Of the remaining 90% of congenital CMV infections, approximately 10–15% will later develop long-term neurological [problems]. 

Congenital CMV infection leads to an estimated 8000 cases of permanent neurologic disability annually. There are more cases of permanent disability due to congenital CMV than other, better 
known, congenital conditions such as Downs syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and spina bifida."

So where's the big push to develop a vaccine for CMV?

Then there's Toxoplasmosis, a leading cause of microcephaly, hydrocephalus, vision loss, and other birth defects.  For 40+ years, on our first pre-natal visit, the doctor has said "don't empty the cat's litter box while pregnant. Get someone else to do that until the baby is born."  And that was that. No tests for it, no cautions, no offers of treatment. But as it turns out, Toxoplasmosis is very dangerous indeed.  An article at the NIH reports that the parasitic disease is the second leading cause of death from contaminated foods (the 4th leading cause of hospitalizations from same) in the USA.  They estimate that a million Americans are infected each year.

Studies show that the prevalence and virulence of the disease in Brazil is much worse.  One study found that as many as 14 babies out of every thousand are born with congenital toxoplasmosis, due to a 50% to 80% prevalence of infection among pregnant women.  In Guatemala, 11 babies of every thousand are affected, and in Mexico, as many as 3.4 per 100!

The NIH reports that a human vaccine has not been pursued. But promising attempts even to vaccinate *cats* have been discontinued due to lack of interest.

Those are only two out of a dozen preventable conditions that have long been known to cause much higher rates of microcephaly, vision and hearing loss, and other disabling birth defects currently being attributed to Zika Virus without any evidence. But no marketing campaign for them?

We know that it takes years or decades to ascertain the effects of emerging diseases. We know that the causes of sudden clusters are rarely ever discovered - unless the cause is a medicine or other controlled, artificial introduction to the environment.  So why the pretenses and misleading claims about Zika?

A few tidbits that may shed light:

Time Magazine has reported that for-profit companies are already at work "tweaking a vaccine that was originally developed for West Nile virus and they expect to launch a safety trial for it in September."   That was fast!

In blood tests, Zika Virus looks almost identical to Dengue Fever, and is transmitted by the same mosquito. The viruses are closely related. Coincidentally, several new Dengue vaccines are either already in large-scale trials or nearing the point. The Philippines plan to vaccinate 1 million children this year. Brazil is one of the countries introducing the vaccine this year as well. All of the UN/World Bank/WHO/Planned Parenthood groups have mobilized their fundraising arms to draw in financing for these new vaccine programs.

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