Giving a dog a bad name to hang it

Once again the continent of Africa, the continent that the rest of the world love to blame for all the afflictions of the world, is being accused of being the originator of a mosquito-borne virus that has emerged in faraway Brazil.

Just as Africa was blamed for AIDS/ HIV about thirty years ago, among others, the Brazilian health ministry was on Monday reported by the BBC as confirming “a link between a mosquito-borne virus from Africa, Zika Fever, and a high incidence of birth defects.”

The health ministry was also reported to have said that “the fever is behind a spike in cases of micro-encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain contracted in the first months of pregnancy.”

Below is the rest of the story as reported by the BBC:

“It has recorded two adult deaths and 739 cases of the disease, which can stunt the growth of the foetus’s head.

“A World Health Organization team arrives in Brazil next week.

“The ministry said doctors had found Zika virus in the blood and tissue of a baby with micro-encephalitis in the north-eastern state of Ceara.

“It said it was also the first time in the world that adult deaths from Zika virus had been registered.

“Most cases have been in the north-east of Brazil but cases also rapidly appeared in the south-east, in Rio and Sao Paulo.

“The first confirmed case of death was of a man in the city of Belem, in Para state, who was being treated for Lupus, a disease of the immune system.

“The second case, also in Para, was of a 16-year-old girl who was admitted with suspected Dengue fever but who was found to have died of Zika.

“The virus was first detected in Brazil in April and has spread rapidly to 18 states.

“It appears relatively harmless at first, causing a rash and a fever for a few days.

“But ministry officials have issued warnings to women to think carefully about getting pregnant at the moment in areas where there are Zika fever cases.

“Zika is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, also known to carry the yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya viruses.

“The ministry said Zika had become a serious risk to public health and that Brazil must embark on an emergency programme to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito to prevent the virus’s spread.”

Reading the BBC story, one could sense some glee on the part of the broadcaster because once again the continent of Africa has been thrown at them to flog.

What they have failed to do is to have stated the matter of the virus honestly and reported that the Zika virus is a member of the Flaviviridae virus family and the flavivirus genus, and that in humans, it causes a disease known as Zika fever which is related to dengue, yellow fever, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis, viruses that are also members of the virus family Flaviviridae.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites, adding that the most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye.

The illness is also said to be usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week and that severe disease requiring hospitalisation is uncommon.

Outbreaks of Zika have been reported to have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands because theAedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world and that it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unlike the Brazil­ian health ministry, advised that its people who want to travel should take care to avoid mosquitoes, among others, since there is no vaccine against the Zika fever.

This approach, I believe, should be the way to go instead of making a futile attempt to blame Africa for an ailment that the records show was also found else­where in the world.

Just as strenuous, but failed, attempts where made decades ago to hang the ori­gins of AIDS/HIV on Africa so also will this current attempt failed.

The Brazilian health ministry must be called upon to provide evidence of its as­sertion because it is not good enough to throw such a serious accusation at a whole continent without a shred of evidence and leave it to hang.

Africa’s voice on this matter must be heard loudly and clearly.

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