International (MNN) — The World Health Organization announced this week that a little-known disease — the Zika virus — presents a dangerous health hazard in Central and South America.
But Zika is proving to be elusive. Adults who are bitten by the Aedes mosquito may not show any symptoms; the only proof that a person has contracted Zika is through a blood test within five days of contracting the disease. Brazil, hardest hit by the virus, has less than 30 labs capable of testing for Zika. The country has more than 1.5 million residents believed to have contracted the virus and about 3,000 cases of microcephaly that may or may not be related to the spread of Zika.
How serious is the virus?
Symptoms of Zika may resemble a mild cold with a touch of pink eye, but doctors in Brazil began to notice recently that there was a relationship between the number of those infected by a Zika-like illness, and a swell of reported cases of microcephaly in newborns.
While scientists don’t yet know why, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said there does seem to be a correlation between the two diseases. The outbreak has active cases in 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries, and the cases of microcephaly are expected to rise exponentially — despite active efforts by national and international organizations to control the spread of Zika.
Politicians and lobbyists have exhorted governments in Brazil and other pro-life countries to reexamine their abortion prohibitions in light of the epidemic.
Life Matters Worldwide Director of Ministry Outreach Michele Shoun expects such political maneuvering to continue.
What is microcephaly?
Babies with microcephaly have heads that stopped growing in the womb, or shortly after birth.
“Their brains do not develop completely,” Shoun says. They often have seizures and developmental delays. It is the increased possibility that women may have a child suffering from microcephaly that has abortion advocates pushing for repeal of abortion laws.
So how bad is this epidemic?
The WHO’s Dr. Chan has called it “a public health emergency of international concern.”
While there is talk of restricting travel, there is little chance of the disease spreading north as the Aedes mosquito is only found in parts of Texas and Florida. While there has been a reported case of human-to-human contraction, it is not contagious enough to create a serious issue in the U.S.
While Chan’s announcement means work on a vaccine for Zika will move forward at a faster clip, is also is likely to cause undue fear that abortion advocates can use for their cause.
There is no proven link yet between the Zika virus and microcephaly. “But that hasn’t stopped abortion advocates from promoting abortion as an option,” she says.
What can Christians do?
Abortion advocates complain that Catholicism in Brazil is hampering the situation. But abortion eliminates the person who is suffering, Shoun says. “Abortion doesn’t cure the Zika virus. It doesn’t cure microcephaly. It only kills, and that is not an answer.”
The women who fear their child may be infected are scared, Shoun adds. As Christians, we’re called to be an encouragement to them. “Christians have always been called to come alongside people who are suffering and take on their suffering, helping them– that’s called compassion. Don’t just SAY you’re pro-life, but BE pro-life.”