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Man Versus Nature — Zika Edition

A child with jaundice at the Provincial Pediatric Hospital in Hamhung City, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The hospital is supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), and World Health Organization (WHO).
A child with jaundice at the Provincial Pediatric Hospital in Hamhung City, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The hospital is supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), and World Health Organization (WHO).

[In Genesis] God gave two commandments to our first parents: to transmit human life: “Increase and multiply,” and to bring nature into their service: “Fill the earth, and subdue it.” These two commandments are complementary [emphasis added].

—Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961 

The newest medical scare flooding the news cycle is Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that medical experts for decades thought was harmless, but which has now been implicated in a growing epidemic of brain defects and disabilities affecting not just those infected by the disease but their children. (You can read more about the research and its implications here and here.)

Zika is scary not just because of what it can do — adults who contract the virus are at risk of paralysis due to Guillain-Barre, while infants born to infected mothers can have abnormally small brains, seizures and other maladies — but how it does so. Up to 80 percent of those infected never display symptoms, making it unusually hard to identify and track. Those who do get sick have only mild, short-lived symptoms (fever, headache, joint pain and a mild rash), all gone within a week, that might easily be written off as a cold or other run-of-the-mill virus. After that, you’re fine — until you suddenly develop a rare paralytic syndrome seemingly out of nowhere, or give birth to a baby with a dangerous brain defect (such as microcephaly, the development of an abnormally small head).

What’s worse is that mosquitoes are no longer the only known source of the disease. Evidence has been found that the virus can be transmitted sexually from an infected man to his partner. In the wake of this new discovery, governments have gone into panic mode, urging women in some affected countries to avoid pregnancy altogether until a solution to the problem is found.

Naturally, scared people everywhere are asking what can be done to make the world safe from this new threat. Meanwhile, others are wondering if it could have been prevented in the first place. Because Zika is spread by mosquitoes, a growing number of commentators are asking whether the worldwide ban on DDT is to blame for the increasingly rapid spread of mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika, malaria, West Nile virus, dengue and yellow fever, some of which had been nearly eradicated by DDT before it was banned due to environmental concerns in the 1970s.

Read more at Aleteia.org…

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