The data thus far suggest this is a mild illness that will almost certainly spread. It seems there may well be a correlation with microcephaly in babies born to infected mothers – but we just don’t have the data yet. And correlation is not causation.
But despite the low risk, the panic Zika is causing is immense. It has some parallels with Ebola in that the fear it is causing is disproportionate to the risk (Zika can and possibly will spread rapidly but isn’t life-threatening, Ebola is truly horrible but the rapid death it usually brings is one of the many reasons militating against its potential to cause a pandemic).
But nature abhors a vacuum and the influence of the church on the panic Zika is provoking should not be understated. In countries such as Brazil the conspiracy theory nutters on the internet will not have as significant an influence on people’s perceptions and behaviours, as will the medieval superstition spouting from every pulpit.
And let’s face it, the Catholic Church does not have a good record when its entrenched hatred of women and gays manifests itself in matters involving disease or sex. I’ve written before about crazy vaccination bans by African Bishops and other horrors, but don’t forget the impact of the church’s long-held antipathy to condoms and the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa.
Add to that the church’s horror of menstrual blood, collectivization of guilt aimed at Eve and by extension all women, its disgusted fascination with men who have sex with men (unsurprising given so many of them seem to have joined the clergy) so I for one can’t see much enlightenment on the horizon for Zika, certainly in Latin America.