Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, Donald G. McNeil
This isn’t written by a scientist studying Zika, but by a science reporter. Given that, it’s not terribly in depth about the disease itself, but rather provides something of an overview, written in an engaging and easy to read way. If you’re interested in learning the facts about Zika (at least as per the point when the book was sent to press), this is a good choice to my mind. It’s sometimes a little reliant on anecdotes, because of course much of the in-depth research on Zika was (and is) yet to be completed. Obviously, he has an interest in making it sound interesting and more than a little horrifying, but broadly speaking I trusted the sources he used.
A number of people have given this book relatively low ratings because McNeil is a big proponent of the advice to delay planned pregnancies if you live in a Zika-infected area. It’s unfeminist, people say; it ignores the fact that some of these areas have a high risk for sexual assault, it ignores female choice, etc, etc. I don’t quite get it: the first instance, he refers to planned pregnancy, so it’s not like he’s saying “don’t get sexually assaulted”. In the latter, you can choose to have a baby when you’re at risk of contracting Zika if you like, but then you must know and accept that your child could die or be severely harmed by it. McNeil doesn’t say “pregnancy should be banned and people who get pregnant should not get healthcare”. He says, “If I wanted a healthy baby, and I was planning to become pregnant, I would wait until I was sure I wasn’t at risk for Zika.” Which is fairly easy, since as far as we can tell, once you’ve had Zika once, you’re immune and there would no longer be a risk. And of course, there’s the potential for vaccines and eradication, in the longer term.
There’s also a bit of criticism of people who get pregnant in Zika-affected areas and then don’t take precautions not to contract Zika. Which is fair: you can choose to do risky things, but why should anyone think it’s a good idea?
All in all, I don’t think McNeil is wrong (or anti-feminist). He’s giving solid advice backed up by what we know of Zika. I don’t believe it’s anti-feminist to point out that drinking alcohol when you’re trying to get pregnant is likely to harm the baby once you do conceive if you don’t realise it, and that you’re best just avoiding drinking alcohol if you want your baby to be healthy. This is a similar situation.
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