The government’s characteristically bungled response to the Zika epidemic comes in for a withering assessment in the Washington Post:
Public health experts and doctors believe that the government is dramatically lowballing the Zika toll, which officially stands at around 5,000 cases. Some independent experts estimate that there have been more than half a million cases of the mosquito-borne disease, which would give Venezuela the second-largest Zika total behind Brazil. The government has acknowledged 255 cases of the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome since Zika arrived last year, more than twice the number in neighboring Colombia. The Venezuelan government has reported three Zika-related deaths, although it has not provided details.
Former health minister José Félix Oletta said Venezuela is still in the “ascent phase of the epidemic wave.”
“Venezuela is showing the perfect scenario for how not to do things, in health,” said Oletta, who is part of an independent medical network that estimates there have been 412,000 Zika cases. “If you don’t establish good communications, the first thing that grows isn’t the epidemic, it’s the fear, the panic.”
Unlike Brazil, Venezuela so far has not seen a spike in cases of microcephaly, a birth defect that results in a baby having an unusually small head and can cause seizures and developmental delays. But doctors say such cases could hit as soon as April, when mothers infected by Zika over the summer start giving birth.