Pestilence Update

Generation Zika. Born in the shadow of a sinister virus pestilence. Part 4 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 4 in a series.

The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, researchers are filling in the gaps of quite how the virus could cause so much damage. They have discovered that previous outbreaks were not as harmless as previously thought. Retrospective studies have found that Zika in French Polynesia may have been responsible for an increase in cases of microcephaly that was not spotted at the time because of the small population size.

Researchers in Sao Paolo have identified genetic factors that may explain why only about 10-15 per cent of mothers infected with Zika give birth to babies with deformities.

And all the while, evidence is emerging that microcephaly is only one of the manifestations of damage done by the virus. For example, studies at the US National Primate Research Centres found that a quarter of pregnancies in monkeys infected in the first trimester with Zika resulted in miscarriages or stillbirths.

Meanwhile, Recife’s mothers are doing the best they can to help their children. The lucky ones come to the Altino Ventura Foundation twice a week for free physiotherapy, music therapy and visual stimulation. Some 164 attend sessions but almost as many are on the waiting list.

Doctors here say they have seen how small improvements in eyesight – from surgery, spectacles or therapy with coloured lights – can have a major impact on even for a baby like Duda, one of the most disabled on their books.

Dr Liana Ventura, the foundation’s director, said: “Once she can see at least visual contrasts – with a sense of her grandmother’s face – she develops bonding, relationships, social communication, and this all improves neurological development, intellectual cognition.”

That means therapy must come early, she says, ideally during the crucial first year of development. Limited resources make it too late for the children on the waiting list.

For those fortunate to find a place, the small gains have brought hope of a better life. Laughter and love permeate the therapy rooms in contrast to an atmosphere of shock and fear just a couple of years ago.

Yet no-one is in any doubt that many of the children will need a lifetime of care. For all Miriam’s lighthearted optimism – “The next time you see her, Duda will be walking and talking,” she says with a grin at one point – there is a gritty realism. All she really wants, Miriam admits, is for Duda to gain a little more vision. “Right now all I want is that she can see us.”

The broader question is whether the world can still see what is happening in Recife. Whether anyone is still watching what happens to the children as they grow. Whether anyone is watching how the government responds. And whether the rest of the world will continue to take Zika seriously.

So far the visibility of the virus has followed a familiar path, from obscurity to notoriety and back again, just like outbreaks of Ebola and Sars prompted global calls for action only to be forgotten again.

Dr Adalja, of Johns Hopkins University, likens the cycle to that of a celebrity. “When they are not in the news, people forget about them,” he says. “Most politicians just respond to what moves the public and if the public are not interested then politicians are not necessarily going to be as interested in it.”

The mothers of Recife may not have his degrees or years of studying epidemics. They may not have researched the impact of infectious diseases on public policy but they have seen close up how this works.

What little they get was won when Brazil’s government found itself at the centre of the global spotlight, says Germana, the activist whose business card is decorated with a portrait of her son Guilherme.

“Maybe everyone was paying attention before because they thought it would go overseas,” she says in the sort of matter-of-fact tone that offers no hint of bitterness just more work to be done. “That might not have happened but the children are still here, the factors that caused this are still here and nothing is better.”

The WHO agrees. Zika remains on its list of eight priority diseases with the potential to cause a global public health emergency for which there is, as yet, no effective treatment or prevention.

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