Last summer, my friend David Lebedoff published a thriller titled Buzz, in which a terrorist group found a way to weaponize mosquitoes. (Buzz is available on Amazon, including a Kindle edition for a mere $4.99.) Now, tragically, the nightmare fantasy envisioned in Buzz has been surpassed by reality. The Zika virus is ravaging South America and spreading rapidly.
Probably you have heard about it: the virus is spread by mosquito bites. It causes terrible birth defects, most notably abnormally small and damaged heads and brains. Already there are around 4,000 such cases in Brazil alone. So far, the Zika virus apparently is carried by just one species of mosquito. As it inexorably makes its way northward, what are our authorities doing about it? Not enough, argues Betsy McCaughey:
Already, nearly 4,000 Brazilian newborns have been affected. Brazil, Jamaica, Colombia and El Salvador are urging women to delay getting pregnant for up to two years, and countries are being encouraged to lift their abortion bans. Zika is also linked to Guillain–Barré syndrome, which causes paralysis and nerve damage in men and women.
For now anyway, Americans have only a small worry — contracting Zika from a mosquito bite while traveling to the Caribbean or Latin America. But the World Health Organization warned on Sunday that mosquito-borne Zika will soon spread to all countries in the western hemisphere except Canada and Chile.
I’m not so sure about Canada: they have plenty of mosquitoes.
Unbelievably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has no intention of helping communities in the United States eradicate mosquitoes, even though it’s immersed in the same fight against mosquito-borne disease in other countries across the globe.
Florida, Texas and southern California have mosquitoes that can spread Zika year-round, according to the medical journal Lancet. The Midwest and East Coast, including New York City, are at risk in the spring and summer, says the report. These areas are now considered “conducive to seasonal Zika virus transmission.” …
The CDC’s Lyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, predicts Zika will hit the United States, but says “we don’t expect very large outbreaks.”
Well, that’s reassuring. There is no cure for the Zika virus other than exterminating the mosquitoes that carry it. So far, that is just one species out of thousands, but how can we be sure that other, more common species will not become carriers of the virus?
“We really need to up our game,” says Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who concedes vaccines and treatments could take years to develop.
Meanwhile, the federal government’s approach — travel warnings and advising pregnant women to wear long sleeves and pants — falls way short. The CDC should be helping local health departments prepare aggressive campaigns to eradicate mosquitoes.
But the agency flatly refuses, stating the CDC “is not involved in state or local level mosquito control programs.” So why does it spend millions of dollars in foreign countries to fight mosquito-borne illnesses?
Here in Minnesota, mosquito control is a big business. If the only (partial) solution to the Zika virus is to kill lots of mosquitoes, why shouldn’t CDC be involved in leading that effort? Killing mosquitoes in Africa has saved millions of people who otherwise would have died from malaria. What is so different about the U.S.?
It helps that [New York’s] City Hall has had a mosquito-control program since 1999 to combat West Nile virus, though spraying is done “judiciously” to placate opponents of pesticides. In a typical year, several New Yorkers die of West Nile. …
Scientists are trying to stop Zika by destroying the main type of mosquito that carries it. They’ve genetically engineered a male mosquito whose offspring automatically die. But environmentalists are whining about eradicating a species.
Good grief! There will still be more than 3,000 mosquito species left. Given a choice between bugs and human babies, the priority is obvious.
Not to environmentalists, apparently. But here is a prediction: as soon as Zika’s appalling birth defects start showing up in the U.S., it will be all-out war. Let’s hope that the relevant agencies are preparing and not dithering.