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Social Justice: Media and Medicine

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Getting It Right With Dr Boles

Getting It Right With Dr Boles

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How does the public feel safe from potential environmental hazards when the media are the source of medical information? The "scare" of of Zika and the threat of microcephaly has been headline news without scientific proof or attempts to show cause and affect. A report implicates a larvicide called ipyriproxyfen, not the Zika virus, is behind the recent surge in the cases of microcephaly in Brazil. Officials in Brazil's southern state of Rio Grande do Sul has suspended the use of the insecticide to allay concerns. There is data that in the area where most microcephalic babies were born , a chemical larvicide producing malformations in mosquitoes has been applied for 18 months and that this poison is applied by the State on drinking water used by the affected population. The affected population is poor and reside in rural areas.

An Argentine group of physicians who examined pregnancy reports and birth records asserted that microcephaly occurred in areas where thousands of pregnant women were exposed to pyriproxyfen, the insecticide used in the area to control mosquitos. This group points out that in other countries affected by Zika, such as Colombia, which have higher rates of the virus than Brazil and French Polynesia who had a Zika outbreak in 2014, an increase in microcephalic babies were not observed. Prior to the past year, Brazil reported about 150 cases of microcephaly annually. But since October, the country has reported 5,079 suspected cases. Last week, the ministry said 41 of the confirmed microcephaly cases were linked to Zika. More research needs to be done to prove cause and effect and better understand the role the virus plays.

The defense for the Japanese manufactured insecticide is that the World Health Organization says that it is safe to use. No laboratory data have been produced to support this acclamation.

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