Thursday, June 30, 2016

zika and foetal abnormalities

There's an interesting article here from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) studying the Zika outbreak in Columbia. The article is, naturally, long and complicated. But cutting to the meat, the conclusion the researchers give in the abstract is as follows (emphasis mine):

Preliminary surveillance data in Colombia suggest that maternal infection with the Zika virus during the third trimester of pregnancy is not linked to structural abnormalities in the fetus. However, the monitoring of the effect of ZVD on pregnant women in Colombia is ongoing.

As they quite responsibly say, this is preliminary data and monitoring is ongoing. However, the implications of the findings are grave indeed. Why is this virus linked to foetal abnormalities in Brazil but not in Columbia? Is there a difference between what is happening in the two countries? 

Well, as it happens there is. Brazil puts larvacides into its drinking water to keep the mosquito population down. And they changed brands not long before the spike in abnormalities began. 

Could the insecticide be causing the problem? Brazil denied the possibility when the idea was first raised some months back. But this new report gives the suggestion new credibility. However, establishing that toxins targeting mosquito larvae is the cause isn't the issue here. If the preliminary indications of the NEJM report turn out to be correct that there is no link between abnormalities and Zika in Columbia, then it follows that there is a link in Brazil is unlikely to the extent of being highly implausible.

One thing is clear. The push for pregnant women infected with Zika to have an abortion needs to stop. I am pro-life; so of course I am of the opinion that it was always wrong to advise women to have an abortion because their was a risk their child would be born disabled. But I would hope that even the most ardent pro-abortion advocate would agree that it is lunacy to give that advice when there is doubt as to the causal link between the virus and abnormalities. 

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