Has the Zika virus been unfairly blamed for the rise in birth defects among hundreds of South American children – and have many otherwise healthy babies lost their lives because of it?
According to a new report by Argentinian physician group Physicians in Crop-Sprayed Towns, the widely-feared virus isn’t the cause of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes smaller-than-usual skulls and varying degrees of brain damage. The anomaly has been on the rise in South American countries since an outbreak of the Zika virus, an otherwise non-fatal mosquito-born disease that has already managed to make its way to many states across the U.S.
Many national governments, along with the World Health Organization, have linked Zika with the rise in microcephaly births, with some officials advising women in affected nations not to get pregnant for at least two years.
Some abortion groups have even jumped into the fray, offering free abortion drugs to women in South American countries with strict abortion laws on the off-chance that they might give birth to a child with special needs.
But PCST says Zika isn’t the cause of the problem, instead pointing to a Japanese-manufactured larvicide as the potential culprit.
According to the group’s report, other Zika outbreaks have not resulted in microcephaly cases:
Previous Zika epidemics did not cause birth defects in newborns, despite infecting 75% of the population in those countries. Also, in other countries such as Colombia there are no records of microcephaly; however, there are plenty of Zika cases.
Moreover, PCST says the outbreaks of microcephaly appear to be concentrated in rural towns whose water was treated in recent years with Pyriproxyfen, a toxic chemical used to kill mosquito larvae.
Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added pyriproxyfen to drinking water is not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on Zika virus for this damage, while trying to ignore its responsibility and ruling out the hypothesis of direct and cumulative chemical damage caused by years of endocrine and immunological disruption of the affected population.
Doctors from the Brazilian Association for Collective Health (ABRASCO) demand that urgent epidemiological studies taking into account this causal link be carried out, especially when among 3,893 cases of malformations confirmed until January 20, 2016, 49 children have died and only five of them were confirmed to have been infected with Zika.
In fact, the Washington Post reported in January that Brazilian health officials determined more than half of hundreds of documented microcephaly cases weren't linked to Zika at all.
Still, abortion advocates have continued to push the Brazilian government to allow abortions -- which are currently banned under any circumstances across the nation -- in cases where the mother contracts Zika during her pregnancy. Fear over giving birth to a deformed child has also taken root among women in Colombia, where many are choosing abortion rather than face the possibility of bearing a child with microcephaly -- despite there having been no recorded cases of Zika-related microcephaly in the country thusfar.
If it’s true that Zika isn’t to blame for children being born with microcephaly, it only serves to make the notion that hundreds or thousands of children may be aborted out of fear even more horrific.