It’s an oft-stated cliche that our children our our future. That’s the reason stories involving dire threats to children are considered so terrifying. It’s why, for instance, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End resonated so creepily. After all, as part of the end of civilization, a frightening change came over the children, who became far superior in abilities and mental power to their parents. Another example includes Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio, whose plot involves the human race being plagued by a new disease called “Herod’s Flu,” which causes pregnant women to spontaneously abort their fetuses, after which they become pregnant again. This heralds a mass evolutionary change in the next generation of children. It’s such a common trope in literature, TV, and film that it even has a name, Bizarre Baby Boom. The flip side of this trope includes stories in which the human race ends because of sterility, as in Children of Men. Stories that speculate bad or bizarre things about the next generation tap into a very deep and primal human fear.

These sorts of stories are just a manifestation of human terror over the thought of something that threatens or changes our children. Perhaps the most famous real-life example of this was the thalidomide disaster, in which as many as 20,000 children were born with birth defects involving stunted limb growth as a result of using thalidomide, which was then prescribed as an antiemetic, during pregnancy. Similarly, another drug, diethylstilbestrol (also called DES), also caused birth defects including reproductive tract conditions. Now, combine fear of infectious disease with our fear and revulsion of something that changes our children, particularly if it causes birth defects.

Perhaps this is why recent stories of the Zika virus have produced such a major reaction, both in the news and in the form of conspiracy theories. Yes, it didn’t take long for the conspiracy loons to latch on to the virus. First, however, let’s look at a more mainstream reaction, which reminds me of the reaction to Ebola over a year ago.

This reaction, one of mostly fear, has been the primary manifestation of greatly increased interest in the virus over the last few weeks, ever since it was linked to serious birth defects in October. That’s when this happened:

At the end of October 2015, the state of Pernambuco in northeast Brazil began reporting a dramatic increase in babies born with microcephaly, followed by the nearby states of Bahía and Paraíba. “Microcephaly is a very rare condition,” says Patricia Pestana Garcez, a neurodevelopment expert who studies the disorder at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. “That was already something bizarre going on.”

Many of the mothers of affected babies reported Zika-like symptoms, including rashes and joint pain, during their pregnancies. So doctors decided to check it out. They found Zika in the amniotic fluid of two fetuses that had been diagnosed with microcephaly in the womb. It’s a small sample size, but it does show that the virus can cross the placenta and get to a developing fetus. On January 13, the Brazilian Ministry of Health announced that it had also found Zika in the tissues of two miscarried fetuses and two newborns who died shortly after birth.

Considerable debate has been going on regarding whether the Zika virus really is causing microcephaly, which consists of an abnormally small head, with incomplete brain development. Skeptics, particularly ones like me and many of my readers, know that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. It might, but in medicine much more often it does not. Regular readers of this blog also know that the more a condition is searched for the more it will be found, as milder cases are picked up that might not have been noticed before. Regular readers of this blog are probably familiar with what has sometimes been called the “awareness” effect, which is likely partially responsible for the surge in autism, along with broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism-spectrum disorders, the surge known among antivaccine activists as the “autism epidemic,” the same “epidemic” they blame on vaccines. Similarly, screening programs always turn up subclinical and mild cases of the condition screened for, leading to an increase in apparent incidence.

Thus it’s not surprising that it’s unclear as of yet whether there is a true correlation between the Zika virus or even whether there is a true surge in cases of microcephaly, as this recent Nature article discusses:

This ‘awareness’ effect is well known and inevitable, they say, and must be revealing cases that would have gone unnoticed under normal circumstances. They also say that a high rate of misdiagnoses among reported cases is likely because the diagnostic criteria being used for microcephaly are broad.

Lopez-Camelo and Orioli presented their analysis in Portuguese-language reports, and, after Nature’s enquiries, provided an English version of the summary (ECLAMC Report).

They say that from the epidemiological data available, it is impossible to establish the true size of the surge in microcephaly, and whether there is any link with the Zika virus. In particular, large ‘prospective’ studies, in which pregnant women in areas of Brazil experiencing Zika outbreaks are monitored to see how many of their children develop microcephaly are needed, they say. Several research groups in and outside Brazil are already planning such studies, and some have begun.

In particular, the investigators, Jorge Lopez-Camelo and Ieda Maria Orioli, from the Latin American Collaborative Study of Congenital Malformations (ECLAMC), point out that the criteria for diagnosing microcephaly are not clear and it is not a trivial problem to estimate the expected number of cases of microcephaly in a population. They note that the Live Birth Information System (SINASC) database records about 1% of birth defects in live births for an expected rate of 3%, which means that an active search for a specific defect could result in an increase of as much as 2/3 in the number of cases usually recorded, even in the absence of an increase in incidence of that particular birth defect. Also, right now Brazilian health authorities are treating all fetuses with head circumferences more than two standard deviations below the mean and newborns with a head circumference of less than 32 cm as suspected cases. These are broad criteria that will inevitably diagnose many children within the normal growth range who don’t have microcephaly. Confirmation of the diagnosis requires not just small head circumference, but small brain size and a decreased rate of brain growth. Consequently, it is quite likely that many of these cases will be reclassified as not having the condition.

Fellow ScienceBlogger Tara Smith points out the same thing, namely that we aren’t sure whether Zika virus is causing an outbreak of microcephaly. Although the circumstantial evidence is very suggestive now, but we don’t know how common microcephaly really is in Brazil or other countries affected by the outbreak, nor will we know for sure until the proper large scale epidemiological studies are done. Certainly there’s enough evidence there to raise justified concerns, but there’s an incredible amount of uncertainty, and humans tend not to deal with uncertainty very well at all. Similarly, Zika virus has been linked to Guillan-Barré syndrome. This connection is less uncertain, but still has a lot of uncertainty surrounding it.

This uncertainty is compounded by the characteristics of the Zika virus. It is, of course, a virus that’s transmitted by mosquitos (A. aegpyti is its primary vector) that’s in the same family of a number of other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Sexual transmission of the virus has also been reported, but appears to be, although not impossible, quite rare. Overwhelmingly, the primary means of transmission is by mosquito. Unfortunately, as is the case for many viral illnesses there is no treatment, nor is there a vaccine yet available. Moreover, the incubation period of the virus is not known, and the majority of people infected with Zika virus, as many as 80% of them, don’t know they were infected because in them the infection is asymptomatic. The other 20% who do become sick suffer from fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, and headache lasting for several days to a week or so. Of course, likely the reason for a lack of urgency to develop a vaccine for Zika virus is because most people who get the virus don’t get sick and the vast majority of those who do suffer a relatively mild viral illness. It wasn’t until this suspected link between this virus infecting pregnant women and the subsequent delivery of babies with microcephaly that there was a groundswell of interest in combatting this virus.

As a result of the strongly suggestive evidence linking Zika virus to microcephaly and Guillan-Barré syndrome, at this time it seems prudent to take measures to try to halt its spread in areas where its mosquito host is endemic, which includes large swaths of South and Central America, as well as the southeastern United States, particularly Florida. There has not yet been any transmission of the Zika virus within the US, and mosquito control in the US is better, with more houses with screens and air conditioning, unlike many of the countries currently affected.

Unfortunately, the news coverage has brought out the conspiracy loons, many of whom are the usual suspects. Oh, boy, has it ever! The stupid doth flow from many of the usual suspects, particularly from the antivaccine crankosphere, where, for example, Marco Cáceres declares that viruses are always the easy scapegoat. He doesn’t say what he thinks the real cause of the apparent increase in incidence of microcephaly in Brazil is, but he lays down the naturalistic fallacy hard and heavy, saying it’s always easy to blame the virus:

The media, along with many within the scientific, medical and public health communities, have irresponsibly pushed the idea that a virus is like a terrorist—something threatening that we must attack and destroy before it attacks and kills us. The same thoroughly unscientific mentality has been disseminated widely with regard to bacteria, disease, and fever.

The truth is that we carry lots of viruses within us all the time, and they don’t harm us in the least bit. And some of them actually do good things for us.

All of which is true but irrelevant to the question of whether the Zika virus is causing microcephaly in South America. Yes, we have a lot of harmless viruses in our cells, but we are also susceptible to lots of viruses that are not benign, viruses that do cause disease, death, and, yes, sometimes birth defects. Cáceres makes it clear where he’s coming from, though, when he quotes a chiropractor who asserts without evidence that, by and large, the “viruses that cause the common cold and the flu infect mainly your weakest cells; cells that are already burdened with excessive waste products and toxins are most likely to allow viruses to infect them.” Um, no. Of course, if you subscribe to the belief that viruses don’t cause disease and it’s all “toxins,” you can sell lots of “detoxification” treatments to treat a viral illness whose natural history is benign in the vast majority of people infected with it.

Which leads us to a new quack-friendly website that I hadn’t really paid much attention to before, TruthKings. Here’s a hint. Whenever a website is called something like TruthKings, you can be pretty sure that it is not dedicated to science or science-based medicine. Sadly, this site doesn’t disappoint, asking: Is Tdap vaccine in pregnant women the real cause of birth defects? If you really want a laugh, you should go to the source, Brazilian Shrunken Head Babies, where the arguments are lame even by antivaccine loon standards. It’s basically pure speculation “bolstered” with several paragraphs beginning with the word “FACT” in—what else?—all caps. Here’s a taste:

FACT—According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adequate testing has not been done in humans to demonstrate safety for pregnant women and it is not known whether the vaccines can cause fetal harm or affect reproduction capacity. The manufacturers of the Tdap vaccine state that human toxicity and fertility studies are inadequate and warn that Tdap should “be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.”

Ah, yes. The antivaccine fallacy known as argumentum ad package insert. Of course, Tdap isn’t recommended until late in pregnancy, too late to be likely to cause birth defects as severe as microcephaly. Moreover, Tdap is quite safe during pregnancy. Let’s just say that the rest of the screamed “FACTs” consist of little more than speculation, appeals to ignorance, and confusing correlation with causation.

Perhaps my favorite conspiracy theory involves something that you really must have expected. What are we lacking so far in these conspiracy theories? Come on! Think! What causes all evils. GMOs, of course! And the CDC and WHO are happy about it, of course! Take a look at another conspiracy yarn from TruthKings, which bases its GMO mosquito speculation on a “report” from Honey Colony:

Is it just a coincidence that the recent outbreak of infections is concentrated in the same region where a genetically modified mosquito farm was first introduced in 2011 and 2012? ( You may rethink that trip to attend the summer Olympics in Brazil.)

In July 2015, following the release of OX513A strain of male mosquitoes into the wild in Juazeiro, Bahia, Northeast Brazil, biotech company Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes Aegypti mosquito – that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus – by reducing the target population by more than 90 percent.”

Not surprisingly, Mike Adams at NaturalNews.com has jumped on this particularly bandwagon, because, of course, it’s anti-GMO, and he can’t resist taking it a step farther:

The Zika virus, in other words, might not even be an accident. If you give these scientists the most optimistic credit possible, you might say they intended for a positive outcome but didn’t realize the risks of what they were doing. But a more pessimistic analysis of their actions might reasonably conclude that they’re testing a bioweapon delivery system against humanity.

Only time will tell which interpretation is correct. Whatever the outcome, make no mistake that today’s biotech science is incredibly foolish, and the actions of these biotech corporations are putting the very future of humanity at extreme risk. Now, it seems, humanity is beginning to witness the true cost of arrogantly playing God with nature.

Of course, no conspiracy theory about “depopulation” would be complete without bringing Bill Gates into the mix, which Alex Jones promptly does. Seriously, this is some super high grade conspiracy nonsense:

The video is deliciously nuts. Jones’ minions can’t seem to make up their mind whether Zika virus is a radical plot by Bill Gates and company to depopulate the world or whether, as John Rapport says in the video, a scam, with the Zika virus not being real. In the conspiracy theorist’s mindset, I suppose it can be both.

Why is it that in these scenarios GMO scientists are portrayed in as caricatured a fashion as an evil overlord, a James Bond movie villain, only not as clever? If I were an evil overlord or a Bond villain intent on asserting my power and I wanted to use some sort of bioweapon, a genetically engineered mosquito would be one of the last things I’d choose, if only because you can’t control where they end up. Ditto a “bioweapon” in the form of a disease like that caused by Zika virus. Again, you can’t control it, and, besides, what’s the good of a bioweapon if all it does is to cause birth defects, particularly if it can’t be easily proven that the virus is the cause? What purpose would such a “bioweapon” serve? How could a dedicated supervillain use it to achieve more power?

Even the worst Bond villains were cleverer and less unfocused than this.

Expanding on the video above, though, perhaps my favorite conspiracy theory comes from—who else?—John Rappaport, who calls the CDC the “medical CIA.” Why? Let Rappaport tell you about the CDC’s pidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), who, according to him, “creates disinformation on a scale that must make the CIA jealous” and “invent medical reality out of thin air.” To what end? Well, that’s never made very clear, but Rappaport sure is suspicious. Through their “several hundred investigations a year” around the world, the EIS is spreading disinformation:

When I say control of information, I mean disinformation. That’s what the EIS is for. They’ve never met a virus they didn’t love, and if they couldn’t find one, they pretended they did.

They front for the medical cartel. And they provide cover for the crimes of mega-corporations. There’s a town where poverty-stricken people are dying, because horrendous pesticides are running into the water supply and soil? No, it’s a virus. There’s a hotel where the plumbing is broken and human waste is getting into all the bathrooms, and they want this hotel to be the epicenter of a new epidemic? No, it isn’t the plumbing, it’s a novel virus never seen before by man. There’s a section of a city where the industrial pollution is driving people over the edge into immune-system failure? No, it’s a virus.

And in Brazil:

The Brazil op has several dimensions. I’ll point out one here. The Zika virus, as in other cases, will be strongly linked to global warming (yet another example of bereft “science”). This tune will be sung: mosquitoes that carry disease are expanding their territory because of warming, and therefore people who once considered themselves safe from these “exotic” viruses will fall ill and die. Bottom line: to limit warming, the planet must adopt cap and trade, carbon taxes (and lower energy production). This is the Globalist agenda. It is intended to drive countries deeper into misery, debt, and chaos—thus making it easier to install a wider and wider global management system.

And this line of psy-op and propaganda begins with the virus hunters of the EIS. They control and own the chokepoint of disease research. They blow up their scanty findings into ex-cathedra pronouncements.

And of course, this strengthens the vaccine establishment because, for every virus, there must be a vaccine: the shot in the arm, loaded with toxic chemicals and a variety of germs.

The EIS. The CDC’s band of brothers. The medical CIA.

Bravo, Mr. Rappaport! You’ve come up with the most elaborate Zika virus conspiracy theory I’ve come across thus far! Truly impressive. While mere amateurs like Mike Adams just think that our New World Order masters are testing bioweapons through genetically modified mosquitos, only Rappaport appreciates the full scope of the conspiracy, tying together anthropogenic global climate change, viruses like the Zika virus, and vaccines as part of a nefarious plan to inject babies with “toxic chemicals” and keep you and me under the thumb of big pharma.

Now that’s a conspiracy theory. All it lacks are our Reptilian overlords. I expect they’ll be along soon enough, as will the Zika virus quackery; that is, if it isn’t along already. (Oh, crap. The homeopaths have discovered Zika virus.) That might be a topic for another post.

Comments

  1. #1 Amethyst
    The Crystal Temple
    February 5, 2016

    Those are some funky-looking mosqitoes right there.

    Zebra-Mosquitoes?

  2. #2 herr doktor bimler
    February 5, 2016

    Oh no, Orac has discovered TVTropes, we may never see him again.

    Is it just a coincidence that the recent outbreak of infections is concentrated in the same region where a genetically modified mosquito farm was first introduced in 2011 and 2012? […]
    In July 2015, following the release of OX513A strain of male mosquitoes into the wild in Juazeiro, Bahia, Northeast Brazil, biotech company Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes Aegypti mosquito – that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus – by reducing the target population by more than 90 percent.”

    Is just a coincidence that an attempt to reduce the mosquito population was first performed in an area where morbidity from mosquito-borne diseases was especially high? At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess “No”.

  3. #3 Amethyst
    The Crystal Temple
    February 5, 2016

    Oh man, remember back in that one other comment section where I joked about the GMO moqsquitoes being “bio organic weapons” á la Resident Evil?

    The hilarity of Mike Adams actually thinking so is just staggering. My mind is blown at the sheer stupidity.

  4. #4 Amethyst
    February 5, 2016

    Almost as staggering as my inability to spell “mosquito”…

  5. #5 StrangerInAStrangeLand
    February 5, 2016

    I saw somewhere that the Zika-delivering-GMO-mosquitos were created by Bill Gates to help with his plans to reduce the human population on earth – especially the black part. Looks like using vaccines for that purpose isn´t working fast enough.

  6. #6 StrangerInAStrangeLand
    February 5, 2016

    And, like Orac, I think that it is an insult to be portraited not only as evil (I work/-ed in the broadest sense with GMOs) but as incompetent! 🙂

  7. #7 rhwombat
    Old King Coal's third loader.
    February 5, 2016

    Amethyst@#1: Aedes albopictus – not aegypti.

  8. #8 has
    February 5, 2016

    StrangerInAStrangeLand@6: Hey, if the hat fits. Six years of Evil Medical School and all you’ve got to show is mosquitoes that can’t get it up? Where are the sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads?

  9. #9 Amethyst
    The Crystal Temple
    February 5, 2016

    #7 – Really neat-looking critters. Sadly, they are mosquitoes after all, so I can only appreciate their neatness so far…

  10. #10 Orac
    February 5, 2016

    Oh no, Orac has discovered TVTropes, we may never see him again.

    Oh, I’ve known about TVTropes for a long time… 🙂

  11. #11 Not a Troll
    February 5, 2016

    Six years of Evil Medical School and all you’ve got to show is mosquitoes that can’t get it up?”

    Hey, you get to be called doctor.

  12. #12 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2016

    And wouldn’t you know it but Mikey asserts that the Powers-that-be are now suppressing a cure for Zika-
    it could be something like Sweet Wormwood ( Artemisia) from Chinese medicine- because it’s *natural*. I recently heard about the same plant from Null.

    I sometimes think that our alt media honchos must have a designated Nervous Nelly ™ ( or Nick) in their employ serving as a barometer to gauge whatever worries the general public most.
    ” Hey Nick, what’s making you feel more panicked today: the Zika virus, street gangs or the national debt?”

    I suppose that as legitimate news outlets cut back on operations to save money they leave a gap that half wit opportunists fill. They tell us that their audience are growing by leaps and bounds but at least one of them doesn’t understand that numbers that come up from an internet search do not equal the number of people who are reading.

  13. #13 Not a Troll
    February 5, 2016

    Denice Walter,

    I’d wager that the majority of these joker’s audiences are transitory consisting of people who are pissed off about their medical care or the government, dabble in this alternative media and then see how ridiculous it is at some later point. The die-hard fans have to be pretty small because of how wide the net is cast with illogical stances on so many issues.

  14. #14 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    February 5, 2016

    The truth is that we carry lots of viruses within us all the time, and they don’t harm us in the least bit. And some of them actually do good things for us.

    Just because I have Methanobrevibacter smithii in my gut and it helps me with my hydrogen metabolism doesn’t mean that Clostridium tetani isn’t going to contort my body into a painful, twisted grotesque with death the likely and welcome escape at the end.

  15. #15 Eric Lund
    February 5, 2016

    Mr. Rappaport is a textbook example of crank magnetism. He managed to work global warming and one-world government into that screed. The concept that there are methods by which we might come to know things, whether by testing tissue samples and finding things that are definitely viruses but ones we haven’t seen before, or measuring the infrared absorption cross sections of a molecule whose concentration in the atmosphere is increasing, seems foreign to him.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2016

    @ Not a Troll:

    Sure. However, the die-hards are the ones who support woo-meisters by buying products. You know the old 80/ 20 rule:
    20% of customers account for 80% of sales.

    Interestingly, there are data on how much one of these charlatans earns ( LOTS!) via business sites and from data about sales of so-called ‘premiums’ for a land-based non-commercial radio station. The woo-meister provides premiums and is paid for them by the station – or sues them if he isn’t.

  17. #17 has
    February 5, 2016

    Not a Troll@11:

    Six years of Evil Medical School and all you’ve got to show is mosquitoes that can’t get it up?

    Hey, you get to be called doctor.

    Pfft, any idiot can get that from Woolonga.

  18. #18 Eric Lund
    February 5, 2016

    Pfft, any idiot can get that from Woolonga.

    Or for that matter, by graduating from certain alt-med programs. I know our host likes to refer to the ND degree as “not a doctor”, but realistically, I suspect that most people with that degree do refer to themselves as “Dr. $LASTNAME”.

  19. #19 palindrom
    February 5, 2016

    Has @17 — Reminds me of an old New Yorker showing a maitre-d on the phone at a fancy restaurant, saying.

    “Very well, two at 8 O’clock for Dr. Jones. May I inquire, are you a medical doctor, or merely a PhD?”

  20. #20 Chris Hickie
    February 5, 2016

    All these purported evil plans and yet our population keeps growing and growing and growing.

    I really like both sci-fi books you mentioned at the start, Orac. Childhood’s End is more mystical than some of Clark’s other books (but very poignant when humanity realizes it’s losing it’s children forever, whereas Bear’s book was more scientifically based and didn’t end as cleanly (hence it’s sequel). Both go well into how children are cared for by society. I still need to watch the mini series just out for Childhood’s End.

  21. #21 Eric Lund
    February 5, 2016

    palindrom@19: You remind me of a sometime collaborator, an Australian who divides his time between there and Berkeley (when he’s not attending conferences) and is married to a woman with family on two other continents. As you might expect, he does a lot of international travel. But he avoids giving the airlines both his degree and his occupation: he is afraid that someone will see “Dr. [redacted], Research Physicist” on a passenger manifest and jump to the conclusion that he is a physician.

  22. #22 Narad
    February 5, 2016

    I see that TwoofKings can’t even get the Tdap angle right: Boostrix is supposed to have been made mandatory (it wasn’t; Portuguese PDF), thus delivering a thimerosal payload (which it doesn’t contain). They’ve also got the timing wrong; the recommendation came in 2014, not “last spring” [sic].

    Something tells me that delivery of prenatal care in Brazil might be less than uniform in any event, and the whole thing excludes the geographical clustering.

    At least AoA briefly glommed onto seasonal flu vaccination, which has a marginally better timeline.

    One is thus left with some sort of vaccine–ZIKV “synergy.” Except when it’s “another medical false flag like Ebola. (These comments also have a couple of tetracycline angles that are new for me, e.g., “It is curious that an antibiotic Tetracycline is used as an antibiotic on farm animals. This antibiotic is also used as a quasi antidote to the gene that was inserted into genetically engineered mosquitoes to combat the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus.”)

  23. #23 Gilbert
    February 5, 2016

    Zika virus and microcephaly: The conspiracy theories flow fast and furious

    Fast? Furious? I don’t think you ever even really considered the import of the NAFTA super-highway and what it has to do with all of this… misdirection.

  24. #24 doug
    February 5, 2016

    I especially like this tweet, found in this Twitter conversation from Tara’s links:
    this Twitter conversation in reference to trying to cram a chunk of DNA almost as big as the entire Zika genome into the latter’s single strand RNA:

    mem_somerville ?@mem_somerville Feb 3
    @c0nc0rdance @NerdyChristie i eagerly await Mae Wan Ho’s explanation of the quantum origami homeopathic packaging system.

  25. #25 doug
    February 5, 2016

    ^ my I made a mess of that

    As penance, I offer this comment from one of the dopier commenters on a CBC article on Zika:

    Barry

    @Dr. Joe It’s funny almost all the articles on these so called conspiracy sites from 10 years ago are now main stream stories, no longer considered conspiracy. do you ever consider that perhaps MSM is a little late coming to the table on most news, eventually they get it but it takes years.

  26. #26 Chris Preston
    Australia
    February 5, 2016

    But he avoids giving the airlines both his degree and his occupation

    Sadly, because my work travel is all booked through a University system, they insist on using the title.

    Indeed it has happened. I have been tempted to respond with “I am a proper Doctor”, but realise that might not go over so well when they have an ill passenger on board, so I use “I am not that sort of Doctor” which makes me sound like I am some sort of crank. But so be it.

    On topic, the GM mosquito argument is particularly mind-numbingly ignorant. Firstly, the 2015 release was thousands of km away from where the problem is, the 2011 release was closer, but those mosquitoes would have well and truly died out by now.

    Apparently, the ZIKV was supposed to pick up the PiggyBac transposon from the GM mosquitoes that contains the tTA gene and pass it on to pregnant women, from whence it causes birth defects by being incorporated into the genome of the fetus. Someone has failed to explain to the conspiracy theorists that ZIKV is a ssRNA virus.

  27. #27 Dangerous Bacon
    February 5, 2016

    I’m really disappointed in the conspiracy-shouters, who are usually much quicker on the trigger.

    After all this time, still no connection made to chemtrails or Morgellons.

    And Rand Paul dropping out of the GOP presidential sweepstakes……………………………………………………………..

    Connect those dots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. #28 Gray Squirrel
    February 5, 2016

    Rappaport missed something: The Malthusian angle!

    CDC is just a cover, and EIS is really a dark op subsidiary of The Mossad.

    Teh Jews and Teh Atheists want to force all these pious Central and South American countries to legalize abortion and promote contraception, “or else” they’ll be bankrupted by the tidal wave of microcephalic children.

    Promoting contraception is the first step toward abandoning all sexual morés, paving the way for gay marriage, and the spread of atheism to thwart the War of Armageddon, thereby derailing the Second Coming and consigning all of humanity to everlasting damnation and the eternal triumph of Satan!

    You read it here first!

  29. #29 Dangerous Bacon
    February 5, 2016

    I forgot, what about the holistic docs dropping dead all over the South?

    GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ZIKA INFEKTION!

  30. #30 Liz Ditz
    Great State of California
    February 5, 2016

    Dangerous Bacon, but the brave Harold Buttram was felled On January 27 2016; he was only 90!

    http://janauglefcs.com/tribute/details/1205/Dr-Harold-Buttram/obituary.html

  31. #31 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2016

    @ Dangerous Bacon:

    Most seriously, he of null ability just discussed the said conspiracy to off the brave maverick-y altie docs but his astute investigation found ABSOLUTELY no pharma plot but rather the doctors – and he was friends with some of them- didn’t live a correct healthy vegan exercise-centric lifestyle so off they went into that good night.
    Now if they had listened to him….

  32. #32 Dan Andrews
    canada
    February 5, 2016

    There’s a good overview and take-down of the GMO Zika skitter conspiracy by Mark Lynas in The Guardian. He links to Science Sushi at Discover blogs who goes into more detail.

    In essence, conspiracists get the locations wrong and the dates wrong as well as the basic science wrong (e.g. DNA from skitters won’t be leaping into the virus which has RNA, and even if it did, the leaping DNA is about as large as the whole viral strand so would be pretty hard to miss).

    http://tinyurl.com/hv4lwqz (Guardian article)

    http://tinyurl.com/zowkh8u (Discover blogs article)

  33. #33 justthestats
    February 5, 2016

    It is intended to drive countries deeper into misery, debt, and chaos—thus making it easier to install a wider and wider global management system.

    Dude, even the Romans knew that it’s easier to keep control of the population when they’re happy, affluent, and in good order.

    Again, I suggest to the totally competent conspiracy that they should be spending their efforts on keeping me from attaining a billion dollars.

  34. #34 Dan Andrews
    February 5, 2016

    p.s. I see Doug at 23 already made that RNA DNA point. Sorry. Should have read more carefully.

  35. #35 justthestats
    February 5, 2016

    (Oh, crap. The homeopaths have discovered Zika virus.)

    Since Zika usually doesn’t have any symptoms, doesn’t that mean you should dilute something that doesn’t cause any symptoms to make the remedy? Like water, for instance? Water diluted in water has to be super powerful!

  36. #36 Connie Schmidt
    Edge of Nowhere, Texas
    February 5, 2016

    My one big disappointment re the Zika drama is that cancer quack, conspiracy loon and self-described humanitarian “Dr.” Leonard Coldwell has been suspended from Facebook for 30 days after being reported for hate-speech posts. Otherwise he would be cranking up the conspiracy volume to his own gullible audiences on Facebook, and doing so most entertainingly and illiterately. As it is, he has had to satisfy himself with posting links to the Mike Adams/Natural News lunacy on his own blog.

    And by the way, @Dangerous Bacon, yet another “holistic” doctor in Florida has bitten the dust. More grist for the conspiracy mill indeed.
    http://www.healthnutnews.com/our-local-holistic-friend-doctor-found-dead-we-are-shocked-saddened-rip/

  37. #37 Orac
    February 5, 2016

    Give him time. Give him time. He’ll figure out a way. 🙂

  38. #38 Narad
    February 5, 2016

    Dangerous Bacon, but the brave Harold Buttram was felled On January 27 2016; he was only 90!

    Robert “The Great White Hoax” Catalano in 2014 as well, for those keeping score.

  39. #39 MarkN
    February 5, 2016

    Timely discussion by the Orac. I just read one of the worst articles from medscape about zika a few days ago. Little to no evidence-basis in the article. Followed by 30+ medical comments of “wtf did medscape just publish ?”

    Run for your lives, Jenny McCarthy is getting augmented….

  40. #40 Andrew Dodds
    United Kingdom
    February 5, 2016

    As a slight aside, I’d recommend the book ‘The Dead Hand’, which describes, among other things, the Soviet biological weapons program. Whereas we took the attitude that with enough nukes to kill everyone several times over we didn’t need biological weapons as well, the Soviets went ahead, and amongst the horrors they came up with was a virus that starts with a 3 day cold, then death a few weeks later, so it can fully spread before its picked up. That’s what a proper depopulation virus looks like.

    Some of the weapons are probably still around today. Sleep well.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dead-Hand-Reagan-Gorbachev/dp/1848312997

  41. #41 Vicki
    not actually in the library
    February 5, 2016

    I recently unfollowed someone at Twitter because she apparently took one look at Zika and dove into full-scale conspiracy theory, with GMOs and mention of polio virus and HIV. I decided I wasn’t up to refuting her, and didn’t want huge amounts of that on my feed.

    I can think of at least two science fiction stories that involve the sort of bioweapon Andrew Dodds @40 points at, with the first symptoms looking like the common cold:

    (spoilers ahead for deades-old stories)

    An odd attempt to use an engineered disease to gain political power is part of the plot of Edgar Pangborn’s novel A Mirror for Observers; and James Tiptree Jr.’s “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” describes a misantropic scientist right out of the “they’re trying to depopulate the earth” conspiracy theories.

    (It should be no surprise to anyone who knows the two writers which one manages something in the shape of a happy ending.)

  42. #42 LW
    February 5, 2016

    Slatewiper by Lewis Perdue features engineered viruses that trigger on race-related genes. The sort of thing that Mad Scientist Gates and his lackeys at the CDC are undoubtedly working on to wipe out the darker-skinned populations. Just adding my bit to the conspiracy mix.

  43. #43 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 5, 2016

    I remain amazed that the people trying to depopulate the world do such a bad job of it.

  44. #44 rs
    February 5, 2016

    “I remain amazed that the people trying to depopulate the world do such a bad job of it.”

    That’s because conspiracies require large bureaucracies to operate. The evil genius at the top is a figurehead. They just send him glowing progress reports (and sharks with lasers) every month to keep him busy and satisfied.

  45. #45 RichardR
    February 5, 2016

    The whole “TDaP shrunk my baby’s head!” myth can be quickly dispelled. Not only has the exact same TDaP vaccine been administered to countless pregnant women in the US since at least 2012 without any serious side effects whatsoever, but the TDaP vaccine is typically administered between week 28 and week 32 of a pregnancy — at which time a defect such as microcephaly has already developed and is visible on ultrasound images.

    The mystery why the zika virus has not led to an increase of microcephaly prevalence in Africa and Asia, where it has been endemic for at least 6 decades and possibly far longer, can also be explained from the fact that it is exactly this endemic nature that prevents these birth defects: women there usually get infected by zika long before their first pregnancy, after which they develop immunity and thus protection for their yet-to-be-conceived children.

  46. #46 Narad
    February 5, 2016

    OK, so there was a lot of really misplaced carping about notation at Dr. Amy’s joint before she turned off comments because they were “crashing the site” (Disqus is externally hosted, so I have no idea how this came to be).

    Refortix/Boostrix is Dtap or, in Brazil, dTpa.

  47. #47 Narad
    February 5, 2016

    The mystery why the zika virus has not led to an increase of microcephaly prevalence in Africa and Asia, where it has been endemic for at least 6 decades and possibly far longer….

    There is no reason whatever to suppose endemicity. There’s little data that I’m aware of about population immunity. “Six decades” is right out for something that had a comfortably sylvatic lifestyle.

    I’m a bit weary at the moment, the possibility that I’ve read positive is purifying selection – with the host–vector cycle limiting nonsynonymous substitutions – leading to a more enthusiastic viremia.

  48. #48 Narad
    February 5, 2016

    ^ “but the possibility that I’ve read about positive

    Told you I was weary.

  49. #49 Chris Preston
    February 6, 2016

    The whole “TDaP shrunk my baby’s head!” myth can be quickly dispelled. Not only has the exact same TDaP vaccine been administered to countless pregnant women in the US since at least 2012 without any serious side effects whatsoever, but the TDaP vaccine is typically administered between week 28 and week 32 of a pregnancy — at which time a defect such as microcephaly has already developed and is visible on ultrasound images

    This requires an anti-vaxxer to consider evidence that contradicts their deeply held belief that vaccines are the EVIL!!!!eleventy-one.

    It will never happen.

  50. #50 justthestats
    February 6, 2016

    There’s little data that I’m aware of about population immunity.

    There’s PMID 19788800 ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819875/ ) and 13163397 ( http://www.jimmunol.org/content/72/4/248.abstract ). Wikip-ia mentions some other study where all the adults were seropositive, but gives the wrong reference.

    I think it’s safe to say there are at least places where the human population was very likely to get it sometime during their lifetimes. It’s just hard to say how much area and how many people that encompassed with the little data available.

  51. #51 JP
    February 6, 2016

    Get some sleep, Narad!

  52. #52 JP
    February 6, 2016

    If anybody is looking for a musical recommendation, Firewater’s “Psychopharmacology” is a personal favorite.

    I typically start with the second track for some reason.

  53. #53 Narad
    February 6, 2016

    I think it’s safe to say there are at least places where the human population was very likely to get it sometime during their lifetimes.

    I’m afraid that neither of these two items cuts the “safe to say” mustard from where I sit.

  54. #54 Chemmomo
    Without preview
    February 6, 2016

    Narad @46

    there was a lot of really misplaced carping about notation

    Refortix/Boostrix is Dtap

    Wrong. See the CDC page: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/recs-summary.htm

    In the US, DTap is the vaccine for infants and young children, with the final dose given around age 5.

    The vaccine for older children (7 and up) and adults is Tdap – the GSK version being Boostrix –and is not the same vaccine: less diphtheria toxoid in Tdap.

    While I myself am guilty of incorrect capitalization (yeah, I thought it was TDaP until I checked just now), as someone with different family members receiving either vaccine depending on age, I’ve paid attention to which vaccine is which. And neither one is the DTP flogged by the conspiracy crowd.

  55. #55 Chemmomo
    correction
    February 6, 2016

    Duh. DTaP.

    I’m going to call that a Freudian slip stemming from the apparently waning immunity conferred by the “a” component.

  56. #56 Denice Walter
    February 6, 2016

    In other news…

    Dan Olmsted ( AoA) ponders why leaders of his own political party seem to be avowed vaccinators whilst the opposition has members who agree with him.

  57. #57 Peripes
    Peru
    February 6, 2016

    Where I live one news broadcast spread that GMO mosquito conspiracy as if it it where a confirmed fact. The place I live in.

  58. #58 Gilbert
    February 6, 2016

    Peripes, #57; If it were an actual licsenced broadcast company and not mearly the ‘chicha press’ spreading such slander then they most likely felt very strongly *encouraged* to do so — To take the heat off the new GMO maize and soybeans that resist 2,4-d. <– If how that stuff wiped out my passiflora incarnata from yards away** is any indication, it is extremely nasty.

    Although they approved it just last April, vast areas were probably already saturated with pirated seed and Enlist Duo™ beforehand (after US EPA cleared the corn and Enlist back in October, 2014).

    http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/87-news/archive/2015/16069-brazil-approves-gm-eucalyptus-trees-and-2-4-d-tolerant-soy-and-corn

    **residental lawns as well as the adjoining soybean field some 50 yards distant from the plants

  59. #59 Narad
    February 6, 2016

    The vaccine for older children (7 and up) and adults is Tdap

    Right. I was tired, but there was at least the inconsistency with dTpa to signal the error.

  60. #60 Narad
    February 6, 2016

    Dan Olmsted ( AoA) ponders why leaders of his own political party seem to be avowed vaccinators whilst the opposition has members who agree with him.

    “It’s also worth remembering that few people who run for president win the first time out”? It’s just sad that D’Ohlmsted clings to his “investigative journalist” trappings. (See also “Hey Pregnant People,” where he again gets his fact wrong.)

  61. #61 Narad
    February 6, 2016

    Get some sleep, Narad!

    Twice as many people means twice as many dishes, madam.

  62. #62 Narad
    February 6, 2016

    @justthestats:

    Wikip-ia mentions some other study where all the adults were seropositive, but gives the wrong reference.

    Could you hip me to that one? I’m currently looking at PMIDs 26482390 and 25001879.

  63. #63 herr doktor bimler
    February 6, 2016

    the brave Harold Buttram was felled On January 27 2016; he was only 90!

    We still have Blaylock. Who has now boarded the Chemtrail crazy-train.

    yet another “holistic” doctor in Florida has bitten the dust. More grist for the conspiracy mill indeed.

    Some see personal tragedy, some see an opportunity for grifting. Amanda Mary Jewell sells tickets to, then regretfully cancels a “Taking control of your health” seminar.
    https://www.facebook.com/MotherNatureAndYou/posts/897819826980443

  64. #64 Pragmatist
    February 6, 2016

    I just want to give Orac and y’all a huge thank you. Haven’t had time to keep up with all this nonsense re: sterile mosquitos birthing zika-infested progeny, et. al..Huge bow.

  65. #65 Raf
    February 7, 2016

    so why the FDA didnt approve Oxitec’s mosquito yet? If its so good, pls release a few thousand in florida soon! hahah no, the FDA is afraid and just waiting to see the results abroad first.

  66. #67 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 7, 2016

    @Raf – What are you actually trying to say? Thanks.

  67. #68 Gilbert
    February 7, 2016

    Nov. 25, 2015

    The Environmental Protection Agency plans to withdraw its approval of a Dow Chemical Co. herbicide, saying it has new information that suggests the weedkiller is more toxic to surrounding plants than previously thought…

    …The EPA this week said new information**, which Dow hadn’t provided to the agency before Enlist Duo’s approval, could lead it to a “different decision” about restrictions for farmers’ use of the herbicide…

    …Dow now has an opportunity to respond to EPA’s motion. The appellate court then will decide whether to vacate Enlist’s approval.

    “With this action, EPA confirms the toxic nature of this lethal cocktail of chemicals, and has stepped back from the brink,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff…

    …The EPA’s move may be a temporary setback for the chemical company,…

    “It’s basically a speed bump on the ramp more than anything else,” …

    …Still, he noted that EPA’s actions may impact the company’s prospects for growth at a time when Dow is exploring the sale of its seed and pesticide unit.

    “Enlist is their crown jewel,” he said.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/epa-revokes-approval-of-dow-chemicals-enlist-duo-herbicide-1448469843

    “This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for EPA taking this important action to protect people, rare plants, and animals from Enlist Duo,” said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As we gather with our families for the holiday feast, we can all breathe a little bit easier knowing that EPA has protected our food from being drenched with this poisonous pesticide cocktail.”

    http://sustainablepulse.com/2015/11/25/us-epa-revokes-herbicide-registration-for-new-generation-of-gm-crops/

    ^^ How very timely. Raise your hands if anyone believes the EPA took this expedited action solely because the Earthjustice people asked them nicely.

    Dow. They… knew.

    ** “Specifically, Dow did not submit to EPA during the registration process the extensive information relating to potential synergism ic cited to the Patent Office…”

    http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/2015-11-24%20EPA%20Voluntary%20Vacatur.pdf

  68. #69 Robert L Bell
    February 7, 2016

    Raise your hands if anyone believes the EPA took this expedited action solely because the Earthjustice people asked them nicely.

    So what are you saying here, Gilbert: that the Lizard People got to the EPA – AS WELL AS THE SECRET SERVICE?

  69. #70 squirrelelite
    February 8, 2016

    I’ve decided to wait the results of the recently started prospective studies to see if Zika causes microcephaly or what the relationship is.

    Still, I found this article from this morning interesting because it suggests the Brazil investigation started with an unusual number of babies with what certainly appears to be microcephaly.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/health/zika-virus-brazil-how-it-spread-explained.html?emc=edit_th_20160207&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=55223704&_r=0

  70. #71 Dunc
    February 8, 2016

    All it lacks are our Reptilian overlords.

    Did you miss the “it’s patented by the Rockefellers” angle, coming from a bunch of people who can’t tell the difference between the ATCC catalogue and the US Patent Office, and who apparently believe that you can just order up controlled biological specimens by filling in fake details on the order form?

  71. #72 Gilbert
    February 8, 2016

    So what are you saying here, Gilbert: that the Lizard People got to the EPA…?

    Well, duhh! Robert L. Bell #69. I should have thought that would have been the obvious observation without the need for requesting further revising and extending of my remarks as I have, thusfar, served as a steadfast reference alluding to the dirty revolving door smeared of explosive diarrhea from the typical salmonella spreading, viscious vacillating vectors of vile oscillating between industry and its antecedant regulatory agencies. I should have thought my continuous harping on those hemp-hating, hemipened herpitars of hypocrisy (aka Tom Vilsack, et. al) as is demostrated via brief perusal on my previous postings here and there might have brought the price of renting a clue down to even the level of mediocre belly-crawling, reptillian yes-men. I thought wrong.

  72. #73 justthestats
    February 8, 2016

    @Narad:

    The W-dia article says:

    Zika virus had been known to infect humans from the results of serological surveys in Uganda and Nigeria. A serosurvey of 84 people of all ages showed 50 had antibodies, with all above 40 years of age being immune.

    and cites PMID 12995440 for it, which doesn’t seem to be the right reference. I suspect that they might have meant 13077697, which I don’t have easy access to, but has the same author and is in the same journal. Or they might have completely botched the citation. I tracked that paragraph down to when it was first added, and the wrong citation was in the original.

  73. #74 justthestats
    February 8, 2016

    @Narad:

    Never mind, found the right PMID: 13157159

  74. […] is set to spread, as climate change warms temperate latitudes. Orac notes that medical science is unprepared to protect humans from the virus itself; there has no historical incentive to develop a vaccine for Zika because the primary symptoms are […]

  75. #76 jarvis
    United States
    February 8, 2016

    I’m a little confused here. If the Zika Virus has been around since the 1940s and the fact that there are 35 other countries across the globe that have confirmed cases of Zika virus illness, but none are having any microcephaly reports …WHY is it so hard to believe that the TDAP vaccination that was recently implemented to be given to pregnant mothers in Brazil and now there is an explosion of microcephaly in babies being born? “Conspiracy theorists” term is simply a derogatory term given to demonize critical thinkers and to hide the TRUTH. What a sad, sad, sad world we live in. Those that are knowingly covering up truth and LYING everyday and calling it “news” are truly pathetic, evil beings.

  76. #77 Narad
    February 9, 2016

    I’m a little confused here. If the Zika Virus has been around since the 1940s and the fact that there are 35 other countries across the globe that have confirmed cases of Zika virus illness, but none are having any microcephaly reports …

    The first notable outbreak of ZIKV was in 2007, followed by the much larger one in French Polynesia in 2013. “Been around since the 1940s” is meaningless. It circulated among animal hosts.

    WHY is it so hard to believe that the TDAP vaccination that was recently implemented to be given to pregnant mothers in Brazil and now there is an explosion of microcephaly in babies being born?

    This is a non sequitur. Where’s all the microcephaly due to Tdap in, say, the U.S., which has the exact same recommendation as Brazil’s new one? (Do not even think of pulling out the “mandated” line.)

  77. #78 Narad
    February 9, 2016

    I’ve decided to wait the results of the recently started prospective studies to see if Zika causes microcephaly or what the relationship is.

    As am I, but French Polynesia is retrospectively signaling (PDF):

    “In light of the increased incidence of microcephaly reported in Brazil, a review of birth data by authorities in French Polynesia indicated an increase in the number of central nervous system malformations in children born between March 2014 and May 2015. 18 cases were reported including 9 microcephaly cases compared to the national average of 0 to 2 cases of microcephaly per year.”

    Look and you shall find, etc. The H5N1 blog is a handy news aggregator.

  78. #79 Narad
    February 9, 2016

    I suspect that they might have meant 13077697, which I don’t have easy access to

    The relevant part of that one is here, but the following discussion section looks to be an entertaining read.

  79. #80 Narad
    February 9, 2016

    Never mind, found the right PMID: 13157159

    (Open-access here, if anyone else is following along.)

  80. #81 Gilbert
    February 9, 2016

    (aka Tom Vilsack, et. al)
    My apologies to Mr. Vilsack. A better example would have been to reference a Micheal Taylor or Donald Rumsfeld in place of the non-rotatary, GMO lovin’, factory-farm shovin’, winter solstice deflorination festival flauntin’ git.

    Vilsack approved a 15-cent per tree tax on Christmas tree sellers, as a result of over 3-years of lobbying from the Christmas tree industry… The purpose of the tax is to fund an advertising program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture promoting the sale of real Christmas trees.
    ^^He is actually inadvertantly helping the environment by taking land away from the exponentially more pernicious practice of farming corn for ethanol fuel, after all.

    On January 24, 2012, Secretary Vilsack was named the designated survivor** by President Obama during the President’s State of the Union address.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Vilsack#Secretary_of_Agriculture

    “As long as the industrial hemp is grown according to the Farm Bill, it can be certified organic to the USDA National Organic Program,”…

    …Catch that? We’re talking about hemp here, which is still considered cannabis under federal law. The distinction, and USDA’s decision to certify it, throw the plant into an even larger legal gray area.

    “Marijuana may not be certified organic under the USDA organic regulations,” Zuck wrote in October 2015.

    http://civileats.com/2016/02/08/colorado-will-soon-be-home-to-certified-organic-cannabis/

    Lizzard people. You can’t trust ’em; you can’t slit open their bellies and crawl inside to survive a chilly arctic shortwave trough.

    ** Oh, yeah; He’s definately a lizzard person. But maybe, just maybe, because he cracked a couple pot jokes with Bill Clinton, he’s a *good* lizzard person like Robert Englund’s character ,Willy, in the 1983 mini-series masterpiece, “V”.

  81. #82 justthestats
    February 9, 2016

    I’m a little confused here. If the Zika Virus has been around since the 1940s

    The strains known about in the 1940s weren’t able to be transmitted from person to mosquito or from person to person. That meant that the mosquitoes had to be infected by monkeys. That meant that the only people who got it were people within a mosquito’s range from monkeys. How likely do you think it would be that people would notice that there was a bit of a higher rate of a very rare birth defect in those backwoods areas?

    and the fact that there are 35 other countries across the globe that have confirmed cases of Zika virus illness, but none are having any microcephaly reports

    Actually, the US has already had its first case of Zika-related microcephaly. But I think you’re missing the bigger picture, which is that Brazil has had 75 times as many cases as the next country down in the list of countries affected by this outbreak, and a million times as many cases for several of them. A very, very tiny percentage of those cases lead to microcephaly, so it’s not surprising that there aren’t many reports of cases from other countries.

    WHY is it so hard to believe that the TDAP vaccination that was recently implemented to be given to pregnant mothers in Brazil and now there is an explosion of microcephaly in babies being born?

    WHY would Tdap only do this in areas in Brazil that have Zika outbreaks, with the microcephaly rates corresponding well to the infection rates? That doesn’t make sense.

    WHY would Tdap make the babies test positive for Zika? None of the diseases Tdap protects against are even viruses. That doesn’t make sense.

    “Conspiracy theorists” term is simply a derogatory term given to demonize critical thinkers and to hide the TRUTH.

    Critical thinking means that you should ask questions like whether ten times the normal countrywide rate of babies with microcephaly being born in just one state of Brazil and to a lesser extent a few of its neighbors is likely to be what you’d see if the increase was the result of a countrywide policy change. Critical thinking means you would wonder if the best way a group of educated public health workers could come up with to hide the TRUTH about the cause of a cluster of birth defects would be to blame it on some new exciting rare disease instead of, say, picking some run-of-the-mill industrial chemical with known birth defect inducing qualities and claiming that they tested high for that.

    Critical thinking means you identify which explanations you are most sympathetic to and challenge them ten times as much as the ones you like the least. Critical thinking is HARD.

    What a sad, sad, sad world we live in.

    So far, I haven’t found any better alternatives. 🙂

  82. #83 Gilbert
    February 9, 2016

    If one is very observant, Patton Oswald can be seen to lick his own eye {not really, he’s not derived of any kind of proper earthly lizzard) — He’s also Tom Vilsack’s life-partner.

  83. #84 MarkN
    February 9, 2016

    @82 – as far as i know, there are no confirmed cases that are directly related to infection from zika.

  84. #86 MarkN
    February 9, 2016

    i guess science is just going to be tossed out the window on this.

  85. #87 justthestats
    February 9, 2016

    @MarkN:
    Well, ok, the CDC confirmed that the mother and child tested positive for Zika. It didn’t confirm causality. That was the headline writer’s bad but understandable decision to write.

  86. #88 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 10, 2016

    In other headlines on today’s “Stupid News”, “Levi Quackenboss” at AoA and on her own blog is linking microcephaly to pesticides, while Mike Adams at NN is going for GM mosquitos.

  87. #89 Narad
    February 10, 2016

    In other headlines on today’s “Stupid News”, “Levi Quackenboss” at AoA and on her own blog is linking microcephaly to pesticides

    Yah, Robyn Diann Ross isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Somebody might want to interrupt her Na-channel babbling to point out that the happily organic pyrethrin does the very same thing just to see what happens.

  88. #90 Gilbert
    February 10, 2016

    Rebecca Fisher #88, that “Stupid News” included a couple pretty much unassailable links:

    “This is a giant laboratory for the worst of industrial-scale agriculture,” says Raquel Rigotto, … Rigotto says her research team has found traces of many pesticides in water taps in the area, and a higher rate of cancer deaths there than in towns nearby with little farming…

    …In Congress, nearly half the 594 lawmakers identify themselves with the “rural bench,” a legislative faction that has relaxed laws banning genetically modified crops and loosened limits on the clearing of rainforest and other woodland.

    http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/brazil-pesticides/

    In Maui County, …a group of residents calling themselves the Shaka Movement sidestepped the company-friendly council and launched a ballot initiative that called for a moratorium on all GMO farming until a full environmental impact statement is completed there.

    The companies, primarily Monsanto, spent $7.2m on the campaign ($327.95 per “no” vote, reported to be the most expensive political campaign in Hawaii history) and still lost.

    ^^ The People do not want it nor the statistical increase in disease ‘it’ comes with.

    Again, they sued in federal court, and, a judge found that the Maui County initiative was preempted by federal law. Those rulings are also being appealed.

    In the legislature, he said, it’s an open secret that most heads of the agriculture committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/23/hawaii-birth-defects-pesticides-gmo

  89. #91 Elle
    February 10, 2016

    I don’t think the discussion about vaccines can be written off as anti-vaccine hysteria in this case. The link to Zika is tenuous at best, as Brazil’s own government has confirmed that only 6 of the babies born with microcephaly actually show evidence of the virus.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-would-it-take-to-prove-the-zika-microcephaly-link1/

    The JAMA study that you reference did not investigate microcephaly. They concluded that Tdap was not linked to chorioamnionitis, hypertensive disorders, or pre-term births. That is not the same thing as the vaccine being “safe”, and most certainly does not rule out a link to microcephaly.

    I think vaccines have been one of the greatest advances in human history, but that does not mean they are safe for pregnant women. GSK itself says they do not recommend their vaccine during pregnancy unless it is “clearly needed”, due to a lack of adequate research on its side effects.

    Incidentally, almost a third of microcephaly cases have been reported in Pernambuco, which has the highest rate of population growth in the country and has vaccinated tens of thousands of women over the past year. While many women who have taken the vaccine have given birth to perfectly healthy babies, I think at the very least, an interaction between Tdap and Zika can be suspected. The science is always more complicated than we want it to be.

  90. […] week, I wrote about how conspiracy theories are flowing fast and furious regarding the Zika virus and microcephaly. Even if you didn’t see that post, you’ve probably seen the news reports about how last […]

  91. #93 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 11, 2016

    @Elle – Given that Tdap is given to pregnant women in the third trimester, well after microcephaly would have developed, yes, it *can* be written off as anti-vax hysteria. Unless you believe that the vaccine can cause birth defects before it’s administered?

  92. #94 Narad
    February 11, 2016

    GSK itself says they do not recommend their vaccine during pregnancy unless it is “clearly needed”

    Boostrix is U.S. Pregnancy Category B. This is about as good as it gets. I’ll leave the enumeration to anyone who is interested and not about to turn in.

  93. #95 Zaakir mungrue
    Trinidad & Tobago
    February 11, 2016

    ALL THIS AND NOTHING ABOUT THE INVENTION OF SYPILLIS , GONOREHEA, HERPES???
    FUCK YOU SCIENCE YOU SERVE THE DEVIL AND SO DOES ALEX JONES THE REAL TRUTH KINGS KNOW FACT FROM FICTION AND WE KNOW FACT FROM CONSPIRACY! NOW GO CONTINUE YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE INVENTORS OF THE STD`S AND THE HIV AND GO DEFEND THEM AND MAKE CONSPIRACY DOCTORS LOOK LIKE DEVILS!!!!!!!

  94. #96 Gilbert
    February 11, 2016

    FUCK YOU, SCIENCE! YOU SERVE THE DEVIL AND SO DOES ALEX JONES THE REAL THE REAL ALEX JONES**. TRUTH KINGS KNOW FACT FROM FICTION AND WE KNOW FACT FROM {FALSE FLAG} CONSPIRACY {CONSPIRATORS AND THEIR EXPLOITATIVE NAKED SHAMEFUL SCHEMES)! NOW GO CONTINUE YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE INVENTORS OF THE STD`S AND THE HIV AND — GO DEFEND THEM AND MAKE {YOURSELVES TO LIE IN BED WITH} CONSPIRACY DOCTORS PHARMA SHILLS AND THOSE WHOSE STOCK PORTFOLIO IS LADEN WITH PHARMA SHILL FILTHY LUCRE AND THOSE WHO MAKE COMMERCIALS SAYING “ASK YOUR DOCTOR IF” AND THOSE WHO TAKE THE ADVERTISING REVENUE FOR SHOWING THEM ON THE TV AND THOSE WHO WOULD TAKE THE BEAUTIFUL AND YOUTHFUL AND CAUSE THEM TO LOOK LIKE DEVILS {IN THE NAME OF SELLING PIMPLE CREAM}!!!!!!!

    ^^THERE. FIXED THAT FOR YOU.

    Congratulations, Zaakir mungrue #95; Under the new federal American standard of Common Core education, you pass grammar class for choosing not to use *unfriendly* numbers in the uniquely individual presentation of your treatise.

    **http://planet.infowars.com/groups/the-real-alex-jones/

  95. #97 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 11, 2016

    Just… wow.

  96. #98 MarkN
    February 11, 2016

    Nothing like letting your freak flag fly

  97. #99 justthestats
    February 11, 2016

    @Elle:

    I think at the very least, an interaction between Tdap and Zika can be suspected.

    Care to explain how or why a small dose of a few modified-to-be-inactive proteins from bacteria could “interact” with a single-stranded positive sense RNA virus with a small genome, or why we didn’t notice it happening with other, more common members of the same virus family?

  98. #100 justthestats
    February 11, 2016

    @ZAAKIR MUNGRUE:

    ALL THIS AND NOTHING ABOUT THE INVENTION OF SYPILLIS . . . ???

    IF SYPHILIS WAS INVENTED IT WAS DONE BEFORE THE 1500’S, PROBABLY IN THE AMERICAS. GIVEN THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE TIME I WOULD BE VERY IMPRESSED THAT SOMEONE COULD INVENT IT. BY THE WAY, LOWER CASE LETTERS HAD ALSO BEEN INVENTED AT THAT TIME.

  99. #101 herr doktor bimler
    February 11, 2016

    This talk of ‘upper case’ and ‘lower case’ is just part of the conspiracy to conceal the existence of the other 10 letter cases that were bequeathed to us by the Pleiadean aliens.

  100. #102 rs
    February 11, 2016

    After you’ve mastered those 10 letter cases you can tackle verb conjugation for the time traveler:
    http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~param/quotes/guide.html

  101. #103 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 11, 2016

    he existence of the other 10 letter cases that were bequeathed to us by the Pleiadean aliens.

    My favorite unsung case is the justin. The case of the vanishing room is also a great one, but has, perhaps, been sung.

  102. #104 Ellie
    On the green side of the grass
    February 11, 2016

    @ZAAKIR MUNGRUE:

    ALL THIS AND NOTHING ABOUT THE INVENTION OF SYPILLIS . . . ???

    Well, Big Pharma doesn’t want people to know about their handy Acme Time Machine and how they used it to go back to 10,000 BC and drop SYPILLIS(sic) on the population.

  103. #105 justthestats
    February 11, 2016

    This talk of ‘upper case’ and ‘lower case’ is just part of the conspiracy to conceal the existence of the other 10 letter cases that were bequeathed to us by the Pleiadean aliens.

    The poor typesetter apprentices!

  104. #106 Narad
    February 11, 2016

    The poor typesetter apprentices!

    One of the better moments from one great aunt was giving me a children’s typesetting kit with rubber type and its own type case (but not one of the kewl rotary ones).

  105. […] Only this month Kerr featured in Mamamia and News Limited articles for her outrageously egregious posting – on February 2 2016, on her Facebook profile – of a conspiracy theory from Truthkings, that the current spike in cases of microcephaly are caused by maternal whooping cough boosters (they’re not): […]

  106. #108 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 12, 2016
  107. #109 justthestats
    February 12, 2016

    (but not one of the kewl rotary ones).

    That is the most awesome thing I’ve seen so far today.

    For those that didn’t get the joke in my last comment, there was a time when upper and lower were actual big, heavy cases full of metal, and guess whose job it would probably be to move them when a new set was needed.

  108. #110 Orac
    February 12, 2016

    Turns out that TruthKings is the creation of Sherri Tenpenny.

    Hilarious.

    It’s particularly amusing because my cancer center’s network wouldn’t let me connect to TruthKings the other day. The message I got was that the site was blocked and the reason for its being blocked was listed as a single word: “Pornography.”

    I can’t argue with that.

  109. #111 Denice Walter
    February 12, 2016

    -btw-
    What Creative Genius ™ thought up the *imaginative* and *meaningful* name for the website?

  110. #112 Vinicius
    KSA
    February 13, 2016

    The newest theory now is Monsanto chemicals used to kill mosquitos as the agents that cause microcephaly. People love an evil corporation storyline.

  111. #113 Ohboyherewegoagain
    Timbuktu
    February 13, 2016

    “Now we have a January 27 Associated Press story out of Rio, published in SFGate: ‘270 of 4,180 suspected microcephaly cases confirmed.’ That’s called a clue, in case you’re wondering. Of the previously touted 4,180 cases of microcephaly in Brazil, the actual number of confirmed cases so far is, well, only 270. Bang. But wait, there’s more. AP: ‘Brazilian officials said the babies with the defect [microcephaly] and their mothers are being tested to see if they had been infected. Six of the 270 confirmed microcephaly cases were found to have the [Zika] virus.’ Bang, bang, bang. Out of all the microcephaly cases re-examined in Brazil, only six have the Zika virus. That constitutes zero proof that Zika has anything to do with microcephaly.”

  112. #114 Gilbert
    hiding in an old '68 4-door Thunderbird round the back of the house
    February 13, 2016

    — fighting Zika will require a major shift in this country’s approach to mosquito control, namely more door-to-door action, a painstaking and expensive practice that many say is a tall order in an era of shrinking budgets and wariness of government intrusion.

    “This guerrilla warfare house-to-house method is still very new and I’m not convinced that many places are prepared for it”

    — “It’s the cockroach of mosquitoes,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It lives indoors around people and hides in dark places.”

    — “There’s going to be a lot of pressure for districts to go out and spray, but that is not very likely to work against these mosquitoes,”

    — Within hours, a SWAT team of 30 mosquito experts was going house to house, dumping standing water from flowerpots, ashtrays, children’s swimming pools, recycling containers, bottle caps and trash cans.

    And how long before the arduous task is delegated to the over vigilant and particularly extra specially-enabled, competent derpy douchebag legions of campaign-promised-jobs-for-underpriveledged-control-freaks-who-don’t-read-to-well Community Development ‘officers’ or real SWAT with their 3’rd grade education, SPAS-12s( Special Purpose Automatic Shotgun), and flashbangs? Will they be discrete in differentiating between the small baby screeching in the crib or Gimpy, the 5.5 legged mantis sitting on the mantlepiece from mosquitoes when using their State-sanctioned discretion for when to pop off their impressive collection of job-doers?

    “Are we ready? That’s the question of the hour,” Dan Strickman, a medical entomologist at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told an eager crowd at the conference. “When we apply ourselves to a particular mosquito problem, we can overcome it.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/health/prepare-for-guerrilla-warfare-with-zika-carrying-mosquitoes-experts-warn.html?_r=0

  113. #115 Narad
    February 13, 2016

    The newest theory now is Monsanto chemicals used to kill mosquitos as the agents that cause microcephaly.

    Pyriproxyfen? Small problem: people don’t have sesquiterpenoid hormones.

  114. #116 MarkN
    February 14, 2016

    the quoted paragraph @113 ….. What’s that saying, better to remain silent than to speak up and remove all doubt??….nothing like removing all the doubt

  115. #117 doug
    February 14, 2016

    “Pyriproxyfen? Small problem: people don’t have sesquiterpenoid hormones.”

    But according to the document released by the physicians in Brazil and Argentina, humans share some significant fraction of their genome with mosquitoes, so something something. They have refrained from using “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” but just barely.
    The whole document is a polemic, sloppy and without a shred of supporting science.

  116. #118 Beth
    February 14, 2016

    @Narad #115(and all here. I lurk but don’t post)—thank you for swatting(intentional pun) these conspiracy theories. Can you please explain Pyriproxyfen? Small problem: people don’t have sesquiterpenoid hormones. All I have to offer for folk on a forum where I am active is the WHO safety/tox studies. But you know how well that goes over re: gvt data.Thx.

    • #119 Orac
      February 14, 2016

      Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it In a few hours.

  117. #120 Narad
    February 14, 2016

    @Beth:

    It sounds as though a more detailed explanation is coming down the pike, but what I was referring to was that the cranks I’ve seen touting this have latched onto the words “juvenile hormone” without bothering to figure out that they actually mean something specific.

  118. #121 justthestats
    February 15, 2016

    Pyriproxyfen? Small problem: people don’t have sesquiterpenoid hormones.

    That’s what the GMOs are for, of course. 😉

  119. #122 Beth
    February 15, 2016

    Thanks @ Narad. I imagine you’ve heard that those reports were influential enough to have one locality suspend use of pyriproxyfen while the fed Brasil gvt disagrees. To state the obvious, these peddlers haven’t any idea how much they are terrifying the people of Brasil while they themselves luxuriate in filtered/purified water. Imagine not feeling safe to drink the only water you have access to.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/zika/12157747/Zika-virus-Brazil-dismisses-link-between-larvicide-and-microcephaly.html

  120. #123 Chris
    February 15, 2016

    I heard on one science radio program this weekend one scientist rant that Zika is a minor problem compared to dengue and yellow fever. I think it was Science Friday, and the ongoing work that has been going on for years to eradicate the mosquitoes that carry those diseases, which are not native to the Americas:
    http://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/could-genetically-engineered-insects-squash-mosquito-borne-disease/

  121. #124 KayMarie
    February 15, 2016

    Well I will say even with the birth defect issues (and I’m not sure dengue or yellow fever are completely safe when you are pregnant either), if I had to get one of the three I’d pick Zika.

  122. […] expansion of the range of Zika virus in the Americas has only been exceeded by the rise of conspiracy theories blaming everything from vaccines to genetically modified mosquitoes. While not a conspiracy theory, […]

  123. #126 Renate
    February 17, 2016

    Congratulations to our beloved host. He was mentioned in a Dutch newspaper, in an article on conspiracy theories around the zika virus.

  124. #127 Helianthus
    France
    February 17, 2016

    @ Beth

    these peddlers haven’t any idea how much they are terrifying the people of Brasil while they themselves luxuriate in filtered/purified water.

    This.
    I see the organic food/anti-GMO (and anti-vaccine) movements as being lead by arrogant people blind to their own privileges as westerners living in a ordained, sanitized society, with easy access to clean water and food.
    They are crying with their mouth full, as we say in French.

    The recklessness with which they spread rumors so they can paint themselves as white knights heralding the Thruth is just infuriating me.

  125. #128 Chris
    February 17, 2016

    Many “conspiracy theorists” are now saying that the real cause is the use of a larvacide made by Sumitomo that has been added to the water in Brazil a few years ago. This could explain why the outbreak of microcephaly is only happening in Brazil

  126. […] Zika virus and microcephaly: The conspiracy theories flow fast and furious […]

  127. #130 Dangerous Bacon
    February 17, 2016

    Just read a newspaper article about the WHO urging consideration of GM mosquito release to help control spread of the Zika virus.

    “Environmentalists” (largely unnamed) are Concerned about the effect of “wiping out” Aedes egyptii in Brazil through release of GM mosquitoes (though I haven’t heard of anyone expecting total eradication via this method). Odd how there wasn’t an environmental catastrophe years ago when Brazilian authorities succeeding for a time in eradicating the species (which is non-native anyway).

    The difference on this occasion is, of course, that we are talking about the Evil GMOs, about which there can be no doubt of Evil.

  128. […] So while medical experts scramble to better understand the relationship between these two illnesses, the current combination of fear and not knowing the actual cause of the recent surge of microcephaly has led to much speculation, occasionally bordering on conspiracy theory. […]

  129. […] So while medical experts scramble to better understand the relationship between these two illnesses, the current combination of fear and not knowing the actual cause of the recent surge of microcephaly has led to much speculation, occasionally bordering on conspiracy theory. […]

  130. […] Sinister skeleton to widespread Zika have now been attributed to, among other conspirators, Bill Gates and the Rockefeller […]

  131. #134 | The High Campus
    February 17, 2016

    […] So while medical experts scramble to better understand the relationship between these two illnesses, the current combination of fear and not knowing the actual cause of the recent surge of microcephaly has led to much speculation, occasionally bordering on conspiracy theory. […]

  132. […] Así, mientras los expertos médicos se apresuran a entender mejor la relación entre estas dos enfermedades, la actual combinación de miedo y el no saber la causa real de la reciente oleada de microcefalia ha dado lugar a muchas especulaciones, en ocasiones rozando en las teorías de conspiración. […]

  133. […] If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last decade-plus of blogging about medicine and alternative medicine, it’s that any time there is an outbreak or pandemic of infectious disease, there will inevitably follow major conspiracy theories about it. It happened during the H1N1 pandemic in the 2009-2010 influenza season, the Ebola outbreak in late 2014, and the Disneyland measles outbreak last year, when cranks of many stripes claimed that either the outbreaks themselves were due to conspiracies (usually, but not limited to, conspiracies to promote the “depopulation” vaccination agenda of—who else?—Bill Gates) or that nefarious forces were seizing on the outbreak to take away our freedom. The second thing I’ve learned is that inevitably people will try to impose their ideology on to the disease and try to use outbreaks to push their own ideological agenda. Indeed, the Ebola outbreak, for example, was rapidly seized on by politicians to promote quarantines and to halt immigration from the affected countries. This year, the biggest infectious disease-related story thus far is the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil that has been linked to microcephaly and other birth defects, and it’s a case of the same stuff, different year, lots of conspiracy theories. […]

  134. #137 Narad
    February 25, 2016

    The Washington Post reports that Oxitec still enjoys mild popularity.

  135. […] The Conspiracy Theories Flow Fast and Furious,” Respectful Insolence, February 5, 2016, http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/02/05/zika-virus-the-conspiracy-theories-flow-fast-and-furiou&#8230; (accessed February 6, […]

  136. #139 Observe-think
    March 9, 2016

    whatever. theories or not, incidents, neural related defects have been happening in non related areas. attributed to many things. here are facts. each can make their own conclusions. there are also clusters of something even more severe, anencephalia in Washington state ocurring since 2010 http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/bizarre-cluster-severe-birth-defects-haunts-health-experts-n24986 . Hope someone does not start saying it was zica (the catch it all). Also identified since the 90’s other clusters in the Mexico-US border https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/birthdefects/NTD_border.shtm . http://www.ipsnews.net/1998/06/health-birth-defects-continue-in-us-mexico-border-areas/ (Cluster of babies in Texas born without brains Pollution suspected as cause of defect) Not Zika either. And BTW, CDC and other sources still can’t “confirm” connection of microcephaly with virus, they use “possible link”. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html there is a need for studies to back it up. not just “it seems or looks like”. supposed to use science, even if science sometimes is used to deny results, such as the tobacco induced cancer (decades ago) which” disproved” a link http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/21/2/87.full

  137. #140 bingo
    earth
    March 11, 2016

    in 50 years 98 % of humans will have microcephaly. The world will be a massive barbaric idiotcracy, similar to a Trump presidency. The 2% of normal intelligent humans will cluster in France, the last outpost of decent humanity.

  138. #141 Chris
    March 11, 2016

    bingo, is that the outline of your next self-published science fiction story?

  139. #142 Julian Frost
    South Africa
    March 11, 2016

    @Chris, I think (hope) bingo is being sarcastic.

  140. […] 2. Wirus Zika i teorie spiskowe [www.livescience.com/53756-pesticide…y-unlikely.html ; scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/0…ast-and-furious/ ; http://www.livescience.com/53748-are-genet…fight-zika.html%5D 3. Współczesna wersja eksperymentu […]

  141. #144 P Bullman
    Florida
    April 14, 2016

    The pro-life people may have a big fight in the future, as desperate pregnant women who have been infected with Zika start lining up in front of abortion clinics. God help these women if this becomes the case. I’ve read about the horrors of Microcephaly, and no woman (or baby) should have to go though this. A good case for keeping abortion legal, wouldn’t you say?

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