Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 3 February 2016

Zika virus: Another healthcare system failure

The devastating outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Americas, just six months before the Olympic Games in Brazil, has once again exposed the failings of governments and the big pharmaceutical companies to protect public health.
In the following articles, Isabel Keppler of LSR, Brazil (the Socialist Party's counterpart), comments on the health disaster in that country and Jon Dale writes on the wider link between poor public health and capitalism.

Symptom of a sick political system

Isabel Keppler

On 28 October 2015 the Ministry of Health in Brazil confirmed a causal relationship between Zika and microcephaly. Pernambuco state, in the northeast, after registering over 500 cases, declared a state of emergency due to diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito - not just Zika, but also dengue and chikungunya.

Cases of dengue also increased drastically this year - by 176%! At the beginning of 2015, in São Paulo, when the 'hydric collapse' (water supply crisis) suddenly hit, occurrences of dengue increased 57%.

There's little information about whether Zika is solely responsible for the cases of microcephaly. It is therefore vital to invest in research quickly.

With the arrival of summer, cases of dengue began to appear. It's necessary to fight the proliferation of Aedes aegypti, and to improve sanitation - requiring new public expenditure.

Budget cuts

However, last year's budget cuts of almost 70 billion reals have adversely impacted on healthcare, education and city councils. Servicing the national debt - by filling the pockets of the bankers - costs 13 times the healthcare budget, for example.

A director for the Ministry of Health, Claudio Maierovitch, declared that the best prevention at the moment was to avoid pregnancies! Even with the ministry declaring that the statement doesn't represent the institution, it might as well do so. After all, the measures applied so far to eradicate mosquito-spread diseases are a joke.

Even before the Zika outbreak the SUS (Unified Health System) was failing communities, with pregnant women not being properly cared for.

No joke

The population needs to get organised and show the ruling class that healthcare is not a joke.

We demand an intensive information campaign is made among the population. The government must guarantee that the mainstream media spreads correct information on how to differentiate the symptoms of each virus, orienting to prevention, and what to do in suspected cases of any of these diseases.

We also immediately need more health workers, as well as kits with quick diagnostic tests, not only in the units of the SUS but also distributed in more remote areas.

This epidemic points to the urgent need for people to demonstrate in large numbers against the cuts of President Dilma and Finance Minister Levy. We need more investment in health. No more profits to the bankers and bosses! No more salary rises and privileges to the politicians!

Disease exposes glaring inequalities

Jon Dale

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa had not been declared over before the latest viral epidemic exploded.

Zika was first recorded in Brazil in March 2015. Since then, up to 1.5 million Brazilians have been infected. It is spreading through South and Central America, reaching the Caribbean and southern USA.

The illness is usually mild but in pregnant women appears to be devastating. Babies born with small skulls - microcephaly - increased from 5.7 to 99.7 per 100,000 live births between 2014 and 2015 in Brazil.

Zika also appears to be linked to an upsurge in cases of a paralysing condition in adults, Guillain-Barré syndrome. Although normally temporary, this can last many months and requires intensive hospital treatment.

Governments have advised women not to become pregnant for between six months and two years, but contraception needs to be free and easy to obtain. It isn't.

Antenatal care is also essential to pick up birth defects early. But even where abortion is legal (it isn't in most affected countries) facilities are lacking, so only those with money can access them. Unsafe illegal abortions will rise.

Affected babies may have life-long physical and learning disabilities and need full-time care. Most parents are poor. Health and social services provision are often basic or non-existent to those who can't pay.

Poor hit hardest

Countries whose economies were based on selling food, metals and oil, especially to China, were facing recession before this latest disaster. As always, working class and poor people are hit hardest.

As the World Bank put it in 2013, "Unequal access to healthcare is still the number one killer for moms and kids." The Zika epidemic confirms that capitalism and its institutions cannot change this.

A vaccine had not seemed necessary for a mild infection but the warning signs that Zika prevention needed to be taken seriously should have been picked up after the 2013 outbreak. Profit-seeking pharmaceutical companies aren't interested in researching vaccines that may never be bought.

The first major outbreaks of Zika virus were on Pacific islands in 2007 and 2013. It may have crossed to Brazil during the 2014 football World Cup.

The mosquito can only fly 100-200 metres, but plastic bags, old rubber tyres and similar urban rubbish make ideal places to lay eggs. All it needs is a little rainfall or stagnant water.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, there was a major initiative to eradicate Aedes aegypti from the Americas by public health organisations and national governments. It almost succeeded at a time before the spread of plastic and rubber waste. But the programmes were cut to save money.

Laboratory tests have shown another mosquito, Aedes albopictus, could start carrying the Zika virus. This mosquito has spread through large regions of the world in recent decades, so Zika could spread much further.

Mosquito eradication from near human habitation needs a massive coordinated effort to drain stagnant water, clear rubbish, provide sanitation and clean water.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 3 February 2016:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Solidarity with health workers

Tax the 1%

Bedroom Tax ruling: The fight to scrap it must continue

Air pollution destroys more lives and homes

Conservatives have no interest in collecting corporation taxes

Them & Us

Readers' comments and reviews

Private renting: Unfit homes and couch surfing

Witty take on credit crunch misses problems at heart of capitalism

Arrested 'Heathrow 13' climate activist speaks


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Fight to save Huddersfield A&E

Angry south Londoners march against the housing bill

Newham Labour disunited against austerity

Councillor suspended after cuts query: activists seek joint work

Wakefield tells big business to frack-off!

Celebrating the revolutionary life of Robert Burns

Fighting to save the last two play centres

Socialist Party features

World economy heading into a storm

Zika virus: Another healthcare system failure

Workplace news

Fight to save 1,550 finance jobs in Surrey

Tories axe 310 jobs in Northern powerhouse

London Transport workers braced for huge cuts in spending

Tories are taking London taxi drivers for a ride

Crane drivers' strike for pay rise

Tesco slashes pay for thousands of workers

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

Japan: The failure of 'Abenomics'

CWI world congress success


Home   |   The Socialist 3 February 2016   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleMajor funding for flood risk management needed

triangleAusterity anger feeds movement for Welsh independence

triangleNationalisation is answer to Southern Water cover up

triangleWater bosses plan to undermine nationalisation: no compensation for fat cats!

triangleNationalise the energy giants to combat global warming


triangleReverse the GP cuts

triangleMajor private care operator puts thousands of vulnerable people at risk

triangleThousands march against overnight closure of Shropshire A&E

triangleCare crisis cashing in


triangleEnd profiteering from health - nationalise big pharma

triangleNorthern Ireland: Health workers take action over understaffing and pay equality

triangleNews in brief


triangleAmazon fires: Big business is destroying the environment

triangleWirral Socialist Party: Brazil - Bolsanaro and the rise of the far right


triangleBabies in poverty are twice as likely to die


triangle300 NHS nurse suicides in seven years - fully fund our health service now!

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



End profiteering from health - nationalise big pharma



Prepare now for the struggles after 12 December


The Socialist

Keep up to date with our election coverage



News in brief



Hillsborough justice eluded



Unite against terrorism, racism, war and austerity


Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: strike action by NHS workers



Resist attacks against free speech on campus



End council cuts now, to end Tory austerity!



Tories launch 'non manifesto'



Labour's manifesto: fight to transform hope into a socialist society



Prince Andrew outrage exposes establishment



Tory election campaign's dirty tricks and lies



Wages flatline, while shareholders profit



Broadband: privatisation has failed to deliver, time for a socialist plan

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019