Zika Virus: Green Zealots, Black Deaths


The world is facing a public-health emergency. According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus, a horrific disease that causes malformation of infants, is now “spreading explosively.” A cure for Zika is not known, and it could take decades to find one. But there is something that can be done now to stop the epidemic. Zika is spread by mosquitoes, which can be exterminated by pesticides. The most effective pesticide is DDT. If the Zika catastrophe is to be prevented in time, we need to use it. So now the question is: Will the environmental bureaucrats continue to block the use of essential life-saving pesticides, and thereby cause an even worse global catastrophe that will go on for generations? The outlook isn’t hopeful. As history shows, to the leaders the Green movement, black lives don’t matter. They have chosen to allow millions of the world’s poorest to continue to suffer and die from malaria, and they are doing everything they can to stop the elimination of vitamin-deficiency diseases by genetically enhanced foods. –Robert Zubrin, National Review, 30 January 2016

The ominous outbreak of the Zika virus is really a policy failure; the demonization of DDT has left much of the world defenseless against mosquito-borne diseases that were once easily and effectively wiped out. “The Zika virus is ‘is now spreading explosively’ in the Americas, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday, with another official estimating between 3 million and 4 million infections in the region over a 12-month period.” The virus has been linked to neurological disorders in fetuses and newborn babies. And as CNN pointed out, “with no vaccine, controlling mosquitoes is key.” But our most effective tool for controlling mosquitoes is the now-banned pesticide DDT. So it’s time to reconsider that deadly DDT ban. Properly used, it remains the best weapon we have to fight preventable diseases. –Editorial, Tyler Morning Telegraph, 1 February 2016

Zika has no cure and a vaccine will not be available for at least a decade. But that is no cause for despair — nor for governments to scare women into not having babies. Two things are known for certain. The first is that the main, possibly only, transmission route is via mosquitoes, which pick up the virus from infected people and pass it on when the pests next take a meal. The second is how to cut the number of mosquitoes—and preferably eradicate them. The moment has come again to take the fight to the mosquitoes—and this time to finish the job. The Economist, 30 January 2016

An alternative to mosquito control, a vaccine against Zika, is not expected to be available soon. So for now, experts say, the best modes of prevention are to intensify use of the older methods of mosquito control and to lower the risk of being bitten using repellents and by wearing long sleeves. One old method that is not getting serious attention would be to use DDT, a powerful pesticide that is banned in many countries because of the ecological damage documented in the 1962 book “Silent Spring.” Still, it is being mentioned a bit, and some experts defend its use for disease control. “We’ve had great success using old methods for the last 50, 60 years,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. “We just need to be very aggressive and exercise political will.” –Andrew Pollack, The New York Times, 30 January 2016

The Zika virus is out of control. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization called it an “explosive” epidemic, and officials in Brazil, the country hardest hit by the disease, have admitted that they are “losing badly” to the disease. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff went so far as to declare war on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits Zika. The good news is this: we know how to fight mosquitoes, and our arsenal is growing bigger by the day. Ultimately, it is unlikely that any one method will stop Zika in its tracks. Winning this war is possible—it has been done before. But it will take an effort the likes of which we have not seen for almost half a century, and perhaps some brand-new technology. –Michael Reilly, MIT Technology Review, 29 January 2016

The Zika virus threat is so severe that some, such as Wellcome Trust head of infection and immunobiology Mike Turner, are advocating the use of DDT — long banned in the United States and elsewhere due to its environmental and health risks — to eliminate the mosquito species’ that serve as carriers of the virus. This weekend, a few pundits have taken things one step further by calling for  the  eradication of all mosquitoes. Regardless of whether you think mosquitoes should be driven from the Earth, or simply made a little less dangerous, large-scale implementation of these strategies is probably a long way off; but the next time you find yourself scratching, take comfort in the fact that future could hold a mosquito-free world. –Jessie Guy-Ryan, Atlas Obscura, 31 January 2016

See also:
World Health Organization says Zika virus is ‘spreading explosively’28 January 2016