Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Zika virus is a global public health emergency, declares WHO

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 02 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i657

Rapid Response:

Using the little Grey Cells: just because a lot of people thinks it is true doesnt mean "argumentum ad populum" is a fact

Dear Editors

In response to Dr Viera Scheibner (PhD) 's question, Hercule Poirot (if he existed) would had reminded us of his previous quibb "Sensationalism dies quickly, fear is long-lived" (Death in the Clouds).

Some food for thought:

While Zika virus (first discovered 70 years ago) is known to be endemic in certain areas for decades, the causal link to fetal microcephaly is still not proven despite claims of 4000 newly diagnosed neonates with microcephaly over the last 3 months in Brazil (so far 270 cases are confirmed and 462 excluded, of the 700-odd reviewed)

"In 2014, only about 150 cases were reported in Brazil in a year — a surprisingly small amount for a large country with nearly 3 million births a year. The United States, with about 4 million births a year, has an estimated 2,500 cases of microcephaly a year, said Margaret Honein, a CDC epidemiologist."

So is the increase real or just better awareness? Surely not all 2500 documented cases of microcephaly in the USA annually is due to Zika infection?

These are reasons to be concerned, but not to panic.

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 February 2016
Shyan Goh
Orthopaedic Surgeon
Sydney, Australia