Via The Guardian: Scientific ignorance about Zika parallels Aids crisis in 1980s, say Brazilian experts. Excerpt and then a comment:
The spread of Zika virus across Latin America, with its apparent tragic consequences for the babies of infected pregnant women, has parallels with the emergence of Aids more than 30 years ago, according to a senior epidemiologist on the frontline in Brazil.
Wilson Savino, director of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro, said the current state of scientific ignorance around the virus and its effects resembles that over HIV – the human immunodeficiency virus which gives rise to Aids – in the early 1980s.
“Back then, the scientific and medical community did not know what was going on until many people had died and considerable research had been undertaken,” said Savino. “Then it turned out to be a global health issue. In Brazil, although we have identified the Zika virus, we don’t know much about it compared with dengue or yellow fever. The degree of ignorance is comparable to what we faced 32 years ago.
“This is a major health incident in the history of Brazil. We face a very serious problem for which scientific knowledge is far from sufficient. The scientific community has the responsibility to discover as much as possible as rapidly as possible.”
Savino is one of three senior Brazilian researchers and officials who were asked by the Guardian to shed light on how a disease initially classified as harmless came to be implicated in the outbreak of microcephaly – the birth of babies with small heads and underdeveloped brains – which has now been designated by the World Health Organisation as a public health emergency of international concern.
Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. It is thought to have arrived in Brazil in 2014, possibly with visitors to the World Cup. There are now an estimated 1.5 million cases of Zika infection and the number is growing fast, though nobody knows how widespread the disease is because there are no symptoms in about 80% of cases.
In the rest, it can lead to fever, aching joints, muscle pains, sore eyes, itching skin and rashes and is now suspected as a cause of the spike in microcephaly cases in Brazil, although without scientific certainty. Cases of microcephaly have risen from fewer than 150 in 2014 to more than 4,000 in the past three months, but sceptics suggest this may simply reflect a previous under-reporting of abnormalities, which are also found in countries without Zika.
“The fear is real. The scare is real,” said Gúbio Soares Campos, a virologist at the Biology Institute of the Federal University of Bahia who was one of two researchers who first identified Zika in Brazil last April. “People have to really be careful right now because we do not yet know whether there will be other major consequences.”
Functioning well while frightened is Hemingway's courage: "grace under pressure." That's the kind of stress that reveals true character (or the lack thereof).