In the Face of Zika, What Population Should Be Controlled?

Pregnant women in South America have a profound concern about the health of their babies. Zika -- a mosquito-borne viral disease -- has been spreading quickly there. The main agent of transmission is the Aedes mosquito.

The mosquito is abundant, especially in South and Central America, Africa, and Asia, but also lives in parts of the southeast United States, northern Australia, and the Mediterranean. 

The disease may affect the fetuses of infected mothers, causing some to be born with underdeveloped brains. Although the link between microcephaly and Zika has not been confirmed, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it is "strongly suspected" and is positively affirmed from documented cases since 2015.

As a result, state authorities in infected regions of South America have advised women to delay getting pregnant. Among those who do get pregnant, some abort their babies, fearing Zika.

Abortion is illegal in many parts of the infected South American continent, yet recent research suggests Zika-induced panic has driven abortion rates there up by 33 to 100 percent. As abortion is illegal in many of these countries, many women opt for abortion at unsafe centers or use unsafe abortifacients, increasing their risk of serious infection and fatality.

If it spreads greatly in Africa and India, Zika could cause unprecedented damage. WHO predicts as many as four million Zika cases across the Americas over the next year. 46 countries are experiencing a first outbreak since 2015, with no previous evidence of circulation, and with ongoing transmission by mosquitos.

In a country like India, abortions can be performed legally only during first the three months of pregnancy, with a number of qualifiers. Two-thirds of abortions in India take place outside authorized healthcare facilities, and every two hours a woman dies because of an unsafe abortion. An outbreak of Zika would increase the number of abortions and abortion-related women’s deaths.

Abortion rates are already increasing across the globe, driven by international agencies and governmental institutions, which adopt the false Malthusian view that population growth causes famine. As a result, large sums of taxpayer money are directed towards population control without due consideration of the impact on the future social structure in the less-developed East. These antisocial elements will use the Zika outbreak as another reason to advocate abortions.

Efforts against Zika will have significant impact only if they use proven scientific methods to combat the primary Zika-transmitting agent -- the Aedes mosquito. But fearmongering environmental radicals, using faulty science, have persuaded the developed West to oppose DDT, which has proven the most affordable, safe, and effective method of controlling malaria-carrying mosquitos and should be used to control Zika carriers as well. Other modern scientific methods, such as genetically modifying Aedes aegypti mosquitos to reduce their breeding levels, should also be encouraged.

But the environmentalists focus on secondary (preventing mosquito bites by use of nets and repellants) and tertiary (contraception and abortion) methods of preventing Zika-induced birth defects, leaving billions across the globe in real danger.

The financial and human cost of allowing unrestricted breeding of these disease-transmitting mosquitoes far outweighs the cost of preventing it. Developing nations must make utmost use of scientific methodologies that prevent the breeding of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. As for the West, it is time the governmental institutions realize the urgency of the issue and approve the use of DDT and genetic modification.

It’s not human population we need to reduce, but the population of disease-carrying mosquitos.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.S., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Udumalpet, India.

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