Who's Afraid of a Big Bad Zika?

zika
 
I imagine that the G, in particular the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency, has been a bit of a tizzy the last few days. And it's all because of Zika. 
 
The G has tried its best to down play the news of the viral outbreak. Two Ministers, Mr. Chee Hong Tat and Mr. Ong Ye Kung, have tried to assuage public fears by issuing their own statements on Facebook. Both ministers opted to describe Zika as a "mild disease" in their messages. 
 
I wonder if both ministers actually thought that saying Zika is "mild" was going to ease country's anxieties about the disease. 
 
I'm sure that the ministers meant well, but I personally think that their attempts to clear the air were counter productive. 
 
It's pretty obvious that MOH and NEA are stretched thin while trying to contain and control this outbreak. The last thing our stressed-out civil servants need are two well-intentioned ministers inadvertently giving the public the impression that the G isn't taking Zika seriously. Because in communications, words really do matter.
 
For what it's worth, Zika really is, from a purely medical point of view, a mild disease.
 
It isn't a life threatening disease kills its hosts. Most Zika patients do even not develop symptoms. When the disease does present itself, it does so with fever, rashes, joint pains and red eyes. 
 
zika
 
That's why the number of early infections reported in the media was confusing: infected patients either didn't feel sick enough to bother seeing a doctor or never thought they had something worse than a case of the flu when they did fall sick. Concrete numbers of infections only started emerging after MOH sent people for tests.
 
Mild disease or not, the side effects of Zika are what scares everyone. A Zika infection can cause a severe form microcephaly in the unborn fetus of a pregnant woman. 
 
That's why the two ministers saying that Zika is a mild disease made them come off as cold and insensitive. Such a declaration made the ministers sound like they thought people are being overdramatic or kiasee for worrying about a possible infection. Worse still, calling Zika a mild disease gives the public the false impression that the G is taking the outbreak lightly. 
 
On the flip side though, it also has to be said that the WP calling for a COI to determine how Zika arrived on our shores is premature and uncalled for. The opposition should let the G do its job and get the outbreak contained first and foremost. Screaming cover up and conspiracy theories is not going to help cure infected patients or prevent further outbreaks.
 
The best thing we ourselves can do in the meantime, is to remain calm and take measures to pile on the mosquito repellent.

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