The zika virus has emerged from the shadows to be really scary, mainly for pregnant women, as a I noted a couple of days ago. Brazil was the first to be noticed on this, but a story in today's NYTimes suggests that on a per person basis, El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America may actually be harder hit.
With at least 5,000 cases of Zika in a nation of six million, more than 1,500 in the last month alone, the government has been scrambling for solutions. It has dispatched teams of fumigators and treated water supplies to combat the Aedes mosquito, which also carries diseases like dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.But the government has also suggested to women that they delay pregnancy for two years!
But El Salvador’s advice to stop having children for two full years struck many experts as particularly sweeping, leaving them to wonder when else a nation has tried to halt its birthrate in the face of an epidemic.
“I can tell you that I have never read, heard or encountered a public request like that,” said David Bloom, a professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health.
If El Salvador’s advice sounds like a cry for help, critics say, that’s because it is.Despite the fact that the country is largely Roman Catholic, birth control is widespread. Data summarized by PRB show that an estimated 72% of married women are already using contraception, and the fertility rate has dropped to replacement level. Gang violence, economic uncertainty and a lot of out-migration have contributed to women already deciding to limit the number of children. It is, of course, unlikely that a large number of women will heed the government's advice, but time will tell...