Oct, 10

The Zika Virus: Is It All Hype?


Fox News reports on cases of the Zika virus being treated in Singapore. The first confirmed case of the Zika virus was confirmed in Singapore in May in a man who had previously traveled to Brazil; since, officials in Singapore have been attempting to both contain the virus and ascertain the severity and implications of how the virus is spreading in the region. The total number of infected people at the time of the writing of the article was 333 cases. The health minister stopped short of calling the outbreak of Zika in Singapore an epidemic.

Interestingly, however, many of the cases of Zika virus (a virus which typically only affects the majority of people infected mildly) reported in the region were not the virulent strain found in Brazil, but a less severe strain that had been known in the region for decades. More research into the long-term effects of this less-potent strain of the virus were needed, the health minister would go on to say.

Zika, of course, is not the first virus we have seen, even in recent years, that has caught the media’s attention. A few years ago, it was the dreaded ebola virus. Before that, it was swine flu. All of these (and many more) viruses are great stories for the media to latch on to. Even on a yearly basis, we are bombarded with stories of the seasonal flu, usually with the intention of prompting us all to get a flu shot.

Certainly these and other viruses can be dangerous. We should all be careful, proactive and prudent with the way we treat any infectious disease. (And, as always, one should never use information here or anywhere else in lieu of a doctor’s advice.) But it is interesting to note how (perhaps) the drug industry uses the hype generated by the media when it comes to Zika and every other virus to funnel money into endless research and vaccine creation –– all things that are likely good for their bottom lines.

But given the success of vaccines such as the annual flu vaccine–– a vaccine that even many mainstream medical experts now claim is often unhelpful at preventing the seasonal flu––one wonders where all this money actually goes. One would think that with the endless streams of money sunk into “research”, our brightest and best would be quicker at finding a more assured solution to these sorts of problems. A more cynical view is that the money ostensibly going into research might be doing more to pad the bottom lines of drug manufacturers than solve the problem of any infectious disease.

Zika is one more virus in a long line of viruses that have come and will come that the media will latch onto in attempt to frighten us all. And while we are thankful for the powers that be who attempt to protect us, it is important to separate the hype from the facts.