I Don’t Wanna Be A Pinhead No More!

0

This year’s edition of the disease that will end civilization is upon us … Zika virus!

Zika joins a long list of infectious diseases that doomsayers claimed would lay waist to millions but then failed to create the calamity predicted. Remember H1N1, Bird Flu, West Nile Virus, and Ebola? Each disease prompted widespread panic in the media and government declarations of local, national, and even international emergencies before fizzling out. None of these crises lived up to the hype. Even Ebola, by far the worst on this list, didn’t approach the number of deaths caused by annual flu outbreaks. Based on what is known about Zika, this latest crisis will prove to be just as benign.

In case these past terrors have receded from your memory, here is a quick review. In 2009 H1N1 (also called Swine Flu) prompted President Obama to declare a national emergency after the World Health Organization (WHO) raised their alert level to “phase 6”, designating H1N1 a global pandemic. The ensuing panic created a vaccine shortage as young healthy people rushed to get the shot, preventing susceptible populations from getting the needed protection. Despite the shortage, H1N1 proved to be far less severe than predicted. Worldwide H1N1 killed 18,138 people. That sounds like a lot until you put it in perspective. In a typical year, WHO estimates that the flu kills roughly 375,000 people. H1N1 was only 5% as deadly.

Bird Flu (H5N1) is the disease that isn’t. In 1997 fourteen people in Hong Kong contracted the virus and six died. The Chinese reacted by wiping out the local poultry population even though none of the infected people worked with birds. Then nothing else happened. In 2004 Bird Flu reappeared in Southeast Asia with local authorities attributing 23 deaths to the virus. Once again the local poultry population was decimated and nothing more happened. A new outbreak in 2005 killed 51 people across China and Southeast Asia resulting in another poultry massacre and a warning from the UN that Bird Flu had the potential to wipe out 150 million people worldwide! In 2006 the disease appeared in Europe, Africa, and Asia resulting in another 80 deaths. Since then deaths have continued to trickle in rising to a total of 440 for the decade from 2003 to 2013 – far shy of the UN’s preposterous estimate. No one in the US has ever died from Bird Flu. As far as we can tell, no one has even caught it. But that didn’t stop the US Department of Health and Human Services from telling scientists they shouldn’t release the details of their research. Why? Because we don’t want the terrorists to find out! Seriously.

West Nile Virus was first identified in Africa in 1937 but it was considered a minor problem … until it got to the US in 1999, then it became a big deal. Stories of the West Nile apocalypse sprang onto the front page of newspapers in the eastern US and local governments worked themselves into a lather trying to wipe out the mosquitoes that carry the disease. As the virus spread westward it became a national crisis highlighted on the nightly news but once again the crisis didn’t live up to the hype. Thousands of deaths were projected but the worst outbreak, in 2012, only killed 286 with most of those being folks who were already sick with other diseases. If you live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes, you’ve probably already had West Nile. 80% of those who get infected never display any symptoms, and almost all of those who do get sick fully recover. In fact, there’s no vaccine for the virus because why would you bother? This may be the most exaggerated health scare in history.

Unlike H1N1, Bird Flu, and West Nile, Ebola is a nasty lethal disease, IF you live in a poor area with shitty (literally) sanitation and primitive medical facilities. But if you live in a first world country with indoor plumbing and modern medicine you’re more likely to be killed by lightning or a shark attack. Why? Because Ebola is actually very hard to catch. To get infected you must be in contact with the bodily fluid of a sick victim – usually the blood, puke, or poop. You won’t catch it if they just breathe on you and even a sick person’s saliva probably won’t pass the virus. Thus the people most likely to catch Ebola are doctors, nurses, or family members caring for a victim. You can’t catch it by just being in the same room, bus, or airplane with an infected person. But that didn’t stop several states from quarantining (imprisoning) aid workers returning to the US from the infected areas in Africa. Connecticut is now being sued by 8 people it imprisoned and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is himself a waddling healthcare disaster, is being sued by nurse Kaci Hickox after Christie ordered her imprisoned in a tent for 3 days.

In 2014 several countries in West and Central Africa experienced the most widespread Ebola outbreak to date. Atrocious sanitation and poor medical facilities were quickly overwhelmed allowing the disease to spread rapidly to ignorant family caregivers. But even as bad as it got, it never was as awful as government experts predicted. WHO called the epidemic “the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times”, conveniently forgetting about the Spanish Flu that killed at least 50 million people and the Asian Flu that killed 2 million. They also claimed that Ebola was almost always fatal, citing a death rate of 90%. As it turned out, Ebola killed 11,315 people or about 40% of those known to have been infected. Of the 5 infected people who came to the US or contracted it here (one in a CDC lab), only 1 died. None of the 3,000 US soldiers sent to Africa to help fight the disease have reported an infection. Yes, Ebola is a terrible disease but its threat to world health has been grossly exaggerated.

Which brings us to the latest thing that will kill us all – Zika. You don’t have to do much research before you realize that Zika is even less dangerous than Bird Flu or West Nile Virus. Even the WHO acknowledges that most (80%) people who catch Zika will never have any symptoms. There are no statistics available counting the number of Zika caused deaths, probably because death from Zika is so rare. So why is Zika suddenly such a big deal? Microcephaly and the scientific ignorance of journalists and politicians.

For those unfamiliar with the term, microcephaly is the condition of having an abnormally small head. Beginning several weeks ago the media started reporting that Zika is causing microcephaly among newborns in Brazil and politicians have latched onto these stories in order to create another crisis that only they can solve. Take note, no scientist, not even the ones at WHO, have stated that Zika can cause this condition. At worst, some scientists say that there may be a correlation but it could be coincidental. But as of yet, Zika caused pinheadedness is not a fact, just a theory.

So why do so many people think this is true? Because the politicians who run the Brazilian health service got involved. Beginning last fall, a few doctors noticed some newborns that were diagnosed with Zika had small heads. The news got out and doctors in Brazil were then encouraged to report EVERY baby whose head had a circumference of 32 cm or less as microcephalic. According to WHO, 3% of all newborns will have a head that small or smaller. Using that standard, Brazil should have 90,000 babies born every year with microcephaly. Before last fall an average of 163 cases were reported each year. Clearly there is a discrepancy between real microcephaly and the 32 cm standard Brazil just started using.

Since October of last year 4,783 cases of microcephaly have been reported. A few scientists at the Brazilian Ministry of Health (IMIP) were shocked by the suddenly gargantuan number and went into the field to examine these babies with “abnormally” small heads. As of January 30, 1,113 of these babies have been checked out. Most of them had normal heads (63%). Of the remaining 37%, only 17 babies had confirmed Zika infections. That’s only 1.5% of the babies that were supposed to be microcephalic!

That sounds more like a coincidence than a cause.

Also, no one has been able to figure out how Zika would cause microcephaly. It’s not scientists saying Zika causes microcephaly, it’s the media and politicians! Panic sells newspapers and grabs TV viewers. Panic gives government the excuse needed to spend more money and expand its power.

And the money and power grab has already started. President Obama just asked Congress for $1.8 billion to stop the spread of Zika. Florida has declared a state of emergency in seven counties. Nearly every case reported in the US is travel related. Can a ban on travel to Brazil or more involuntary quarantines be far behind?

Zika has been around for decades and you didn’t even know it. The media and government are trying to scare you once again into giving them what they want – more money and more power. These people never let a good crisis go to waste … and if they don’t have a real crisis, they’ll invent one.


 

As the year progresses I will keep a running tally of the number of unarmed citizens and dogs killed by police. I will also keep tabs on the number of cops killed in the line of duty.

Here’s the count for the first 6 weeks of the year along with links to the most recent killings:

Unarmed Americans killed by police: 6

Officer ‘Feared for his life’ When He Fatally Shot Unarmed Man

Transgender Man With Asperger’s Who Touched Millions With Viral Video Shot Dead By Police In Arizona

Austin Police: Teen Killed By Officer Identified As David Joseph, 17

Dogs killed by police: 4

Police killed in the line of duty: 2

Wayne Middlesteadt is the author of Five Ways to Beat the Market and The Golden Age of Distance Running.

About Author

Avatar

Wayne Middlesteadt is a 1986 graduate of Georgia Tech and has an MBA from Georgia State University. Currently working as a financial writer and track and field historian, his latest book is Five Ways To Beat The Market.