Pestilence Update

Generation Zika. Born in the shadow of a sinister virus pestilence. Part 3 in a series.

Blog note. Jesus indicated that ‘fearful sights’ (various natural disasters) would occur leading up to the time known as the Tribulation and Great Tribulation (a combined seven year period of great destruction on earth). Although these types of things have occurred in the past for centuries and thousands of years, they could be identified as the ‘season of the times’ due to the ferociousness of these events. They would be occurring in greater intensity, severity, frequency, size, duration, scope … just like the pains that a women experiences in labor the farther along she is in the labor process. We are in the ‘season of the times’ that comes just before the seven (7) year Tribulation/Great Tribulation period.

… And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. (Luke 21:11).

… And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; (Luke 21:25)

… Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken; (Luke 21:26)

… This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1)

Jesus is giving a series of prophecies about what to look for as the age of grace comes to a close. These verses are several of many such prophecies from throughout the Bible. 2017 was the worst year in recorded history for the intensity, frequency, severity, duration and occurrence of a large number of severe natural disasters worldwide. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, torrential flooding, unprecedented wildfires in unusual places, devastating droughts, excessive/scorching heat setting records everywhere, record snowfalls in Europe and Russia. Snow in the Arabia. This list can go on. Most studied Eschatologists believe these ‘fearful sights’ and massive natural disasters are all part of the ‘CONVERGENCE’ of signs that this Biblical and prophetic age is closing. Most people who study prophecy are familiar with the routine reference(s) made that these things will be like a woman having labor pains that occur in greater severity, frequency, size and duration prior to giving birth. End of note.

Generation Zika. Born in the shadow of a sinister virus pestilence. Part 3 in a series.

The Telegraph.

A mosquito buzzes beneath the lights. Dr Regina has stayed late waiting for a Zika toddler to arrive. He has a mild fever and his mother is worried it is a symptom of something more. Dr Regina washes her hands in a basin but then reaches for a sheet of writing paper to dry her fingers as Mowgli and Baloo look down from the walls. There are no hand towels. And some of the toilets in the children’s block lack running water. Buckets are used instead.

Germana Soares lifts her son Guilherme on to the examination couch for Dr Regina to set about her work. His head size, length and weight were all good, she says, and a sign of good nutrition. “It all looks great,” she adds. She sees no immediate cause for concern, but orders a string of further tests – MRI, EKG, ultrasound and immunology blood screens – all part of the routine as the children grow.

Business done, she sits down to catch up with Germana, taking notes about Guilherme’s progress. Both are pioneers. Dr Regina was among the doctors who first recognised the surge in babies with microcephaly – 18 at one time – while Germana founded a support group for families, Union of Mothers of Angels.

Like many women, she blamed herself for her son’s deformities. Had she been a bad mother? Should she have waited for the Zika outbreak to pass before becoming pregnant?

Guilherme was born with damage to the left side of his brain from calcification caused by the virus, unable to swallow. She hid him away from the world for the first months of his life. “It’s a cultural thing,” she says. “If you have a son like that it must be because you have done something bad.”

She quickly realised doing nothing would not help Guilherme get the care he needed. Although she had the help of her husband’s private medical insurance, other men ran from their responsibilities and the stigma of disabilities. If things were going to change, she says, then mothers like her were going to need to fight for their babies’ rights to a decent life. “After all, the mosquitoes didn’t choose who to bite.”

She talks nineteen to the dozen, describing the financial hardships for mothers, 90 per cent of whom she says gave up their jobs to become carers. Just buying food supplements can exhaust the government cash benefits, she explains, and anyone with a fridge that is too big, or with ceramic tiles on their floor, can be excluded from receiving the money altogether by unfeeling bureaucrats who don’t understand how families are struggling to survive.

There have been victories along the way. The benefits can now be approved in five days, streamlining a process that could take up to a year of interviews and assessments. And Zika families now have priority for low-cost housing.

But each step came with a struggle. The federal government only does what it has to do, she says. While the state government acts like a “bad stepmother” living in a “fantasy world”.

“The kids get physiotherapy once a month,” she says, “and they think that’s enough.”

She doesn’t expect anything to change in 2018. This is an election year. Politicians have little time for her lobbying and the policy machine has ground to a halt until presidential, federal and state elections this month (October).

Nor is Zika much of an issue in the campaign so far, says Ivan Moraes, who sits in the state parliament for the Socialism and Liberal Party and this year is running for the National Congress.

The Zika babies are reaching the age when they should be entering nursery school but local authorities had shortages of special needs assistants even before the extra demands of the Zika generation. “It means they are being excluded from their rights to a proper education,” he said.

Nor has anything been done to tackle the city’s inadequate sewage system, he says, where less than half its three million population were connected to its sanitation network, a map that coincides with infection. “Here people say the problem with sewage is that it’s underground,” says Mr Moraes. “If you get elected for four years you don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort on something that you can’t take pictures of.”

The conditions are much the same as they were in 2015 when the outbreak began, he says. The evidence is obvious all across the city. It takes the form of drainage ditches clogged with weeds and channels that run just beneath pavement slabs outside the home of Claudilene Deis Dos Santos, 23, and her son Kauan Lucas.

There’s a puddle of water in the hallway to her gloomy apartment. There is worse around the corner where black water fills an alleyway. Women carrying shopping bags clamber carefully across stepping stones as a motorbike stirs up a stink by ploughing through the middle.

Claudilene says she would move if she could. But she can’t. “I live her because my mother is upstairs,” she says. “What else am I supposed to do?”

If Zika has disappeared from sight for now it is down to the virus burning itself out, in the process known as “herd immunity”. Having hit infection rates of more than 50 per cent, much of the population is immune to catching the disease again.

That respite may only be temporary, according to Dr Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Health Security. Over time, as more children are born, the uninfected population will grow allowing the virus a chance to return.

“You may see it come back in waves if we don’t get serious about vector control and also vaccine development,” he said.

There is no vaccine available yet. One candidate is currently in phase two trials – the step at which researchers find out whether it actually confers any protection. A successful vaccine could still be a decade away or more.

… Continued in part 4

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