Encouraging news that spread of Zika virus slowing in Latin America

By Dave Andrusko

zikavirus48A story in Thursday’s Washington Post offered the encouraging news that “Spread of Zika virus appears to be slowing in parts of Latin America.”

According to reporter Nick Miroff,

In several Latin American nations hit hard by the Zika epidemic, the transmission of the virus appears to have peaked, with the number of infections declining in recent weeks, according to governments in the region and the latest World Health Organization data.

The slowdown has prompted some countries, including Colombia, to significantly scale back their projections of the impact of the virus.

As NRL News Today has reported on several occasions, the Zika virus has been associated with, but not proven to cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with undersized heads with subsequent health problems. Pro-abortion organizations have vigorously–and cynically–attempted to leverage the concern into a full-scale campaign to dilute Latin America’s largely protective abortion laws.

Miroff was careful not to over-extrapolate. The downward trends are not present in all countries that have been exposed in the Americas, he writes, and he quotes a prominent epidemiologist as saying a second outbreak is possible.

“Still, the latest figures [from the World Health Organization] raise hopes that the virus … may not produce as many infections as initially feared,” Miroff explains.

The link to the Zika virus is assumed but (to take just one example), “Of 32 Colombian infants born since January with undersized heads, the condition known as microcephaly, eight have tested positive for Zika.” This reinforces the possibility that there may well be another reason for the increase in cases of microcephaly besides the Zika virus.

Moreover, as Jonathan Abbamonte and Steven W. Mosher wrote, “A new study [in the Lancet] has found that pregnant mothers who contract a Zika virus infection have a less than 1% chance of their babies developing microcephaly.” They noted

The new findings from the Lancet study seem to indicate that previous estimates for the prevalence of Zika related microcephaly may have been too high.

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, nearly 6,500 cases of microcephaly have been reported. But over-reporting seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

Of the 2,212 cases that have been investigated so far, for example, 1,349 cases have turned out to be infants with normal cranial development, not microcephaly. The number of confirmed cases in Brazil so far appear to be similar to what would be expected from the incidence rates found in French Polynesia [a reference to the Zika outbreak in French Polynesia between 2013 and 2014].