Saturday, April 29, 2017

Z is for Zika Virus

Image: Wellcome Images, Zika virus particle illustration

The Zika virus, first discovered in 1947, exploded in the media in 2015 because the virus, spread through mosquito bites, can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby, and is suspected of causing the birth defect microcephaly. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact. During a Zika outbreak in Brazil between October 2015 and January 2016, the number of reported microcephaly cases rose to 3,500. (Wikipedia)

Image: Marcos Teixeira de Freitas, Aedes Aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus

Talk about horrible timing! With the Olympic games scheduled for Rio that summer and travel warnings issued for pregnant women and male sexual partners of women who might get pregnant in the future, several athletes dropped out of the games including 14 high-ranking male golfers, one female golfer, and two tennis stars. (Source)

Image: brar_j, Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition with incomplete brain development

Since the connection between Zika and microcephaly hasn't been scientifically confirmed, there are many alternative conspiracy theories:

1. Blame genetically modified mosquitos.

A company called Oxitec genetically modified mosquitos so when the modified males mate with wild female mosquitos, their offspring would not survive due to a build up of a particular protein. This was done in an effort to slow down the transmission of diseases like dengue fever and chickungunya The modified male mosquitos were released in Brazil starting in 2011.

The genetically modified mosquitos have an on/off switch: tetracycline. In the labs, mosquitos are fed tetracycline to keep the population alive and multiplying. Once released into the target neighborhoods, without tetracycline, the male mosquitos and their young won't live long.

But guess what? Brazil feeds its food animals antibiotics like tetracycline which then gets into the environment through animal waste. So the question arose on whether or not the genetically modified mosquitos and their offspring were dying off as hoped.

Now, assuming they did survive long enough to bite people, exactly how the bite of genetically modified mosquito translates to birth defects isn't clear to me, but I'll move on because this post is getting too long as it is.

2. Blame pesticides

The pesticide Pyriproxyfen was put into Brazil's water supplies to halt the development of mosquito larvae in 2014, about a year before the microcephaly outbreak. So considering a human pregnancy lasts nine months, the timing is right. Conspiracy theorists claimed other areas of the world dealing with Zika, like Columbia, have not seen outbreaks of microcephaly linked to Zika. (Source)

But not so fast. Columbia isn't a fair comparison. Their Zika cases started in October of 2016, so there's not been enough time for microcephaly to be detected in their pregnant women yet, and many pregnant women have decided to have abortions. (Source) Also, when researchers took another look at a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014, they did find a spike in microcephaly cases. (Source)

Debunkers also point out that pyriproxyfen has been around humans for many years in products like home and lawn pesticides and flea and tick control for pets.

3. Blame vaccines

In 2013, whooping cough (pertussis) was a big problem in Brazil. So in 2014, the Tdap vaccine was mandated for pregnant women. Like the pesticide theory, the timing fits for birth defects to show up about a year later. Some people suspect Tdap because this vaccine has not been tested in pregnant women and has caused brain inflammation in babies and children under 5 (among other concerns). (Source)



And that's all folks! I've enjoyed sharing these conspiracy theories with all of you. I'll still be catching up on returning comments for several days. If I missed returning your comment, I sincerely apologize.

What are you going to spend your extra time on now that the A to Z Blog Challenge is done?


  1. I've discovered this post because I'm now following your blog - I've done my Z post, but assumed it had to be left for tomorrow when we can post it on the A-Z blog?

    But hey, why not do it now and post tomorrow?

    There are some nasty viruses around, but I'll wait until scientific research tells us officially what causes them. Mind you, science has made some huge errors, like importing prickly pear cactus to Australia for fencing and then having to find something that ate ONLY prickly pear to get rid of it. (We do still eat the fruit, which is delicious, but it spreads!). We still have cane toads, which came here to get rid of something elsel AAARGH!

    I'm a book blogger, so I will be blogging about books, as usual. But the challenge has made me write and research something daily.

    1. I noticed that the A to Z challenge blog was putting up their sign-up posts at 8 pm the evening before each letter's "day", so I took advantage since I wanted to sleep in. I believe this was done because plenty of bloggers are in the UK and Europe and their day starts hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time.

  2. That is very interesting. I didn't know that the cause was not confirmed! Now I am more curious about the Zika. The pictures of babies, all over internet, lately with the disease made me feel a weird anxiety so I never did my research on the topic.
    Thanks for sharing
    Congrats! for finishing up the challenge :)
    Best wishes!

    1. That type of anxiety makes sense to me. The birth defect microcephaly is heartbreaking.

  3. Genetically modified mosquitoes... Sad to say, I could totally see that being the case. When man interferes...

    Woo-hoo! You made it to the end. Whew.

    1. Makes you think of tracker jackers from The Hunger Games, maybe? I'm sure this theory has been debunked soundly somewhere, but I just couldn't track down the details in time.

  4. I think there is a lot we don't know but I don't think it was a conspiracy... but who knows.

    While I enjoy blogging this was exhausting and I am looking forward to my once a week or so posting. You had an interesting A-Z theme that was informative. Thanks, I learned something and that is always good!

  5. I saw your comment about the tracker jackers and that is exactly what I thought about when I was reading the post! I am not sure what the answer is- but I know things happen that we know little about- just what is told to us.

    Congrats on finishing A-Z!

  6. I’d heard of zika and the birth defects, but I didn’t know about the other stuff. Interesting! Congrats on finishing the challenge!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  7. I did not know all of this. Interesting

  8. Congrats on reaching Z! :) Your host of conspiracies is enough to make anyone paranoid ;P
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

  9. You have an uncanny detective mind...appreciate all your study and analysis.
    congratulations on finishing the challenge with stride!
    Anagha From Team MocktailMommies
    Collage Of Life

  10. Awesome Z post! I liked this interesting article.

  11. A lot of the conspiracy theorists whose screenshots are featured in my skeptical Facebook groups have been freaking out about Zika.

    I'll be using May to get ready for my move back to Pittsburgh, and distance networking and job-hunting. My lease ends during the holiday of Shavuot at the end of May, but after that, I'm finally taking the plunge and moving back to my hometown.

  12. I haven't known this virus before. Due to this it was very informative to read your article.

  13. I have kind of thought it was the genetically modified mosquitoes (I have no evidence, just seemed to fit). The fact that it hit Brazil so hard and not much in the rest of South America seemed to fit with that. Interesting on the other two theories. Anyway, well done!

    Congratulations on a successful A to Z!

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Zoo - I live in one!

  14. I remember reading about this and the theory that it was pesticides causing it.
    Congrats on finishing the challenge and giving some great reading.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  15. So sad and scary about the Zika virus. Congrats on finishing the challenge.

  16. Tdap conspiracy...I love conspiracies and I don't care what people think, I always second guess vaccines. Scientists aren't God btw.

    congrats on finishing the challenge.
    Today I'm talking about all things coffee and books.

    1. I've watched a lot of documentaries and testimonies of people who believe they were injured by vaccines, so I'm willing to examine both sides of the issue as well. Dr. Suzanne Humphries' book, Dissolving Illusions, on the history of vaccines is an interesting read. She's a former nephrologist (kidney specialist) that quit her job to study vaccines.

  17. There is a lot we don't know, though I don't think it's a vaccine...

    Congratulations on finishing the challenge! Your theme has been intriguing and suspenseful and fun, also sad at times like this entry but always a great pleasure to read. Thank you.

  18. This was one scary post and so interesting to read. Congrats on making it to Z. I enjoyed your theme, and glad the posts will be up so I can meander through others I missed.

  19. Very interesting post. I remember hearing about the Zika virus in the run up to the Rio Olympics. Congratulations on all of your fascinating a to z challenge posts.

  20. Congrats on surviving another Challenge! I hadn't realized there was a Ziki conspiracy. Interesting post!

  21. Lots of scary stuff to consider.

    Nice job wrapping up your Challenge. Thanks for being a part of the 2017 A to Z!

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  22. Wow. I had no idea birth defects potentially caused by zika was such a conspiracy theory. I'm especially interested in the idea of tetracycline and it being dispersed through the feces of other animals and the effect that has had on the genetically modified mosquitos. I mean it makes total sense that people would want to "modify" mosquitos so that they are able to cause less harm to humanity, but it makes equally as much sense that that would end up biting people in the behind anyway. *shrugs* Complications.

    And the funny (well, not really) thing was that I thought all of this zika mess was behind us when fall approached last year, but no. Now I'm seeing news reports about it again on social media. *sigh*

    With Love,


I will do everything in my power to visit commenter's blogs unless I've been abducted by aliens or my children get sick. (If my children get abducted by aliens, I will be very busy, of course, catching up on my sleep.)