Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Zika-dee-doo-dah

A quick glance through the Colombian (Bogotá-centred ones anyway) newspapers or sitting down to watch the main TV news here and it's unlikely you'll read or hear much, if anything, about Zika. Indeed, most Bogotá residents have probably forgotten what it is. (In case you need reminding, it's that mosquito-spread virus which can be particularly dangerous, it is believed, if contracted by pregnant women as it can lead to severe brain malformations in the fetus and other birth defects. Such complications, though, may not be as bad as first feared, going by the findings of a recent study.)

Zika: It's not that bad ...
Sure it could be worse ... (Image from Facebook.)
After it being in the headlines constantly at the end of December last year and early this year, it pretty much seems to have gone off the radar for Colombian media — save for that new, slightly more positive report, linked above, questioning Zika's adverse effects on the fetuses of late-term pregnancies.

From a personal (and male) point of view, the furore it had created, and seemingly still creates in many Western countries, had been and is a little over the top. For most relatively healthy human beings, those who aren't pregnant anyway, being struck down with Zika isn't a major deal. The symptoms are pretty mild by all accounts. There would appear to exist far worse infections for us to be concerned about.

Of course, that it hasn't been a topic of conversation or cause for worry in Bogotá isn't at all surprising. This is because the mosquitoes that transmit the disease aren't found in these parts due to the city's lofty altitude. Granted, you only need to travel a short distance outside Bogotá or go to most of Colombia's other major cities and towns to come into 'Zika range', something that a good number of the capital's residents do on a regular basis. (Alas, that hasn't been my case this year, but that has nothing to do with Zika fears; a trip outside the metropolis is badly needed.) Nonetheless, the pandemic isn't causing consternation among the masses. (For the record, as of April this year, there were 65,726 cases of Zika reported in Colombia.)

In fact, were it not for a phone call from a concerned older cousin in Europe who is considering visiting Colombia, Zika wouldn't have entered my mind. Apparently all the advice he's getting in the West is to be very careful if he visits here due to the disease. Again, it's fair to say there are greater worries — be they from man, beast or insect — than Zika for anybody coming to Central or South America.

Now maybe there's a bit of that renowned laid back Latino attitude at play in all of this. Perhaps all of us living here should be a little more concerned about Zika, especially so those planning to have children due to that fetal abnormality issue.

Yet, from the 'safe' heights of Bogotá it's a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. No point worrying about something that can't get to you, really. Now as for Colombia's dragged-out peace process, that's another story.
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