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Saying Zika Doesn't Cause Microcephaly Is Dangerous & False

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If you think 2016 has felt like the Year of the Zika Virus, you wouldn't be completely wrong. Ever since January, reports of this mysterious, poorly understood mosquito-borne disease began to migrate north from Brazil, as thousands of cases of microcephaly — a birth defect that causes abnormally small heads and brains in babies  — prompted a closer look at the virus. The virus itself, too, has migrated northward, with the first cases of Zika transmission by native mosquitos confirmed to have occurred in Florida. And yet, there are plenty of tinfoil conspiracy theorists out there who believe that Zika doesn't cause microcephaly — or worse, that Zika isn't real at all. These beliefs are not only false, but perpetuating them is dangerous as well.

As soon as reports came out of Brazil of a widespread Zika virus outbreak, they were almost immediately countered by investigative "reports" espousing everything from "Zika is a hoax" to "the government manufactured Zika" to "microcephaly is caused by insecticides, not Zika." The common denominator of these investigative reports? They often appear on websites touting "natural health." And I would confidently bet you dollars to donuts that your friend who posts these "Zika is a hoax" articles on Facebook is probably an anti-vaxxer, too. But Zika is far from a hoax and its effects can be devastating.

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RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 02: Mother Inabela holds her daughter Graziella, 6-months-old and born with microcephaly, as she wears her new glasses which she received at a rehabilitation clinic on June 2, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect linked to the Zika virus where infants are born with abnormally small heads. Some of the children are now suffering visual defects and many are receiving glasses. The Brazilian city of Recife and surrounding Pernambuco state remain the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak, which has now spread to many countries in the Americas. A group of health experts recently called for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be postponed or cancelled due to the Zika threat but the WHO (World Health Organization) rejected the proposal. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Now, about those natural health news sites: I'm a firm believer in and recipient of complementary and alternative medicine, but there's a big difference between treating my migraines with acupuncture in addition to taking my medicine — and natural health news sites with ads like: "The #1 Trick to Destroy Your Diabetes — Results in 4 Weeks!" (And yes, that ad copy is verbatim from one such site claiming Zika is a hoax.) Here's why promoting and perpetuating the false idea that Zika is somehow created by the government or Big Pharma is downright dangerous.

Check Your Sources

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RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 01: Grandmother Luzinete Maria sits with her 7-month-old granddaughter Luhandra, who was born with microcephaly, on June 1, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect linked to the Zika virus where infants are born with abnormally small heads. A baby girl, whose mother contracted Zika in her native Honduras, was born with Zika-related microcephaly in New Jersey today. The Brazilian city of Recife and surrounding Pernambuco state remain the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak, which has now spread to many countries in the Americas. A group of health experts recently called for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be postponed or cancelled due to the Zika threat but the WHO (World Health Organization) rejected the proposal. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The facts don't lie. To quote Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind at the RNC last month: "Who here believes in science?" The list of academic, scholarly, peer-reviewed scientific studies linking Zika to microcephaly is not only long — it's growing. The link between Zika and microcephaly has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization; in fact, the WHO has a webpage devoted to dispelling Zika rumors.

Much like the sham science behind the anti-vaccination movement, the "science" that says Zika doesn't cause microcephaly is equally without factual foundation. Bottom line: If you come across a headline that makes you question whether you should check Snopes to authenticate its veracity, then maybe it's time to see if other reputable, reliable sources exist.

Misinformation Can Have Disastrous Consequences

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RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 01: Seven-month-old Luhandra Vitoria, who was born with microcephaly, sits with her sister Jasminy on June 1, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect linked to the Zika virus where infants are born with abnormally small heads. A baby girl, whose mother contracted Zika in her native Honduras, was born with Zika-related microcephaly in New Jersey today. The Brazilian city of Recife and surrounding Pernambuco state remain the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak, which has now spread to many countries in the Americas. A group of health experts recently called for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be postponed or cancelled due to the Zika threat but the WHO (World Health Organization) rejected the proposal. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

If your friend believes that Zika is a hoax or some government-created conspiracy to promote the sale of insecticides with DEET, then chances are, they aren't taking the necessary precautions against Zika, either. Not only are they opening themselves up to possible Zika infections, they are spreading dangerous misinformation in the process.

U.S. Olympic soccer player Hope Solo was actually heckled with "Zika!" chants at the Olympic Games in Rio this week — because Solo has been unapologetic in her concerns about Zika. Solo wants to start a family, and the fact that Zika can live in the body for up to three months if she were infected means that having a baby develop microcephaly if she got pregnant is still a possibility, well after she leaves Rio. Zika is most dangerous to women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Ask Yourself: What's The Risk You're Willing To Take?

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RECIFE, BRAZIL - MAY 30: Mother Daniele Santos holds her baby Juan Pedro, who has microcephaly, on May 30, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Microcephaly is a birth defect linked to the Zika virus where infants are born with abnormally small heads. The city of Recife and surrounding Pernambuco state remain the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak, which has now spread to many countries in the Americas. A group of health experts recently called for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be postponed or cancelled due to the Zika threat but the WHO (World Health Organization) rejected the proposal. The Olympic torch passes through Recife May 31. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

At the end of the day, the most important question to ask yourself is whether or not believing and promoting the notion that Zika is a hoax is worth the risk of contracting it personally, or passing it on to your partner. Zika prevention isn't just some scheme to move buy spray off the shelves: Preventing Zika is everyone's responsibility.