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Terrifying. Doing some quick back of the envelope calculations: 1,000,000 people in Brazil got the virus, and there are 4,000 cases of microcephaly. Let's assume that most of these are caused by the virus (pre-virus level of microcephaly were very low) and assume half of the people are women. Also assume roughly two pregnancies over a women's life, and an average life expectancy of 73 years.

This would mean that of the 500,000 women that got the virus, roughly 2% of these women were pregnant while getting the virus, which equates to 10,000 women, resulting in 4,000 cases of microcephaly. This would be a 40% chance of microcephaly when a woman catches the virus during pregnancy. That is absurdly high for a virus that is starting to become (or already is) an epidemic.

There's many assumptions in the calculation and I'm sure the medical profession has much better numbers. As I said it's a back of the envelope. But even if the chances are 20% or 10%, that is still extremely high and worrying. The recommendation not to get pregnant in countries where the virus is active suddenly makes sense.




The birth rate in Brazil in 2015 was 14.46 births/1,000 population[1]. The twin rate is 8.8/1,000 births[2]. So, of 1,000,000 who got sick, roughly 14,300 were pregnant women[3], resulting in a 28% chance of microcephaly.

That still comes with a big asterisk since 80% cases of the disease in the general population are asymptomatic[4]. But(!) pregnant women are at increased risk for many diseases.

[1] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/...

[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

[3] who carried to term

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/brazilians...


I wonder whether there is a window during pregnancy for a Zika infection causing microcephaly. eg, thalidomide caused different defects depending on which day of the pregnancy the mother took it -- take it on the Nth day and you get blindness, on the Mth day you get malformed limbs.

If it's something like "only a risk during the second trimester", then that 28% chance becomes "100% during second trimester".


> The recommendation not to get pregnant in countries where the virus is active suddenly makes sense

How is one going to implement such a policy ? one can't make people stop having sex and AFAIK El Salvador is very religious (no abortions...) and poor (no contraceptives ...). This epidemic concerns the whole world IMHO and we should put a maximum of resources into finding a cure or a vaccine (if none exist yet) ASAP. Now i'm even hearing that this virus might be a STD ... scary.


> How is one going to implement such a policy ?

You're asking how they will implement a policy to recommend something? Probably with some advertising and public service announcements I guess.

Why does that puzzle you so much?


It's not a policy, it's a recommendation. Women can do with it what they will.


Although it is only a recommendation, ignoring it might be more problematic than it seems right now. Of course, I'm not assuming that majority of Argentinian women would actually make careful review of all the risks, but still. Critically low newborn number for 2 years actually is a big deal. If we assume there won't be many babies in 2017 it means there won't be many 7 year olds in 2024. That probably means financing 2-nd class of elementary school that year is pretty pointless, which means problems if you actually had a healthy newborn child in 2017. That means virtually no need for goods & services targeting some specific age, critical hit for businesses.

On the other hand that means the opposite situation for those born in 2018-year, which also is not normal. (Overpopulated classes some 7 years later, at the very least.)

So, yeah. This year starts pretty crazy.


Indeed. Hope the government educates them at least on how to prevent pregnancy and also provides the resources.

In reality man should also be educated and provided with lots of condoms.


It's going to be really interesting to see the response of the RC church to this.


Well, they don't have any problem with correcting hereditary problems in the womb[1], and it appears okay to straight up not have kids if you know you have a problem that's going to affect the fetus as well[2].

What they absolutely aren't okay with is finding out the child has microcephaly, and aborting as a result.

It's my own personal read on canon law that giving birth in such an environment, to the point where the civil authorities are saying "please don't", would present an unacceptable risk to the child, and thus be immoral, and thus be a sin.

[1]: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-churchs-posit...

[2]: http://www2.loras.edu/~CatholicHE/Arch/Sexuality/Genetic_dis...

Don't expect a sudden 180 on birth control. The advice for people will be to abstain.


>The advice for people will be to abstain.

Which is a well-proven failed strategy.


Tangent, and not a particularly religious one:

Why does sex seem to get a pass for "you can't control your biological impulses" when other drives don't?

- We're driven to eat as well, and have a growing problem with obesity. At least, when you eat too much, you're only harming yourself. Yet, we (the society "we") tut at the obese, in some cases make fun of them. "Why can't you control yourself?" we say. "Put down the fork!" says another.

- We have a drive to be social, yet humans are pretty well controlled when it comes to expressing that drive at the wrong times in the wrong places.

- It's expected to be protective of your family, but in another time, that would have meant meting out lethal punishment to an interloper. Now, doing that lands you a prison sentence.

Without moralizing on any of this:

The drive to reproduce, we somehow don't expect people to stop screwing when it's likely that doing so will have really awful consequences for a perfectly innocent life. Either now, in the case of a virus causing congenital defects, or in other cases, such as not being able to support a child. We throw our hands up, say "welp, abstience doesn't work, knock yourselves out", and try to work around the problem with birth control (something which still has a <100% chance of stopping unwanted births)

Why is this? Surrender to the implacable force of human nature doesn't seem to be the answer, seeing as how we've at least partially tamed most other impulses, or at least refused to give up.


WRT obesity, there is a big drive to recognize that this is not a really controllable impulse (appetite and metabolism differences are strongly biologically determined) and a lot if the effort (diets, for example, or low-calorie substitutes) goes into figuring out how to fulfill the impulse while reducing the harm - similar to STD protection and birth control.

WRT socializing, we definitely have norms about controlling the drive to socialize, but I don't know many people who advocate complete isolation.

Similarly with sex. What you characterize as a "you can't control biological impulses" position usually specifically targets abstinence - that is not a fight you can win. But those same people are often totally in favor of more limited control of the sex drive. Laws against rape (statutory or otherwise), norms against romances on the workplace or military service where a power imbalance exists, norms against just plain moving too fast with someone new - these are all very broadly supported.


I think we need to define abstinence a bit more carefully. In most cases, it's meant as a temporary thing, not permanent virginity.

Teens: Don't have sex till later, you don't want babies yet.

Women in this country: Don't have sex till later, you don't want babies with birth defects.

Church: Don't have sex till later (marriage), you'll offend God

So what is the substantial difference between the socially accepted "don't have sex in the military, wait till you're out" and the quickly becoming socially unaccepted "don't have sex for this set period of time"? You just did it right here, characterizing it as a fight you can't win.

It seems... strange, to expect responsibility and prioritization of biological goals from people at some times and not others.


It's not really that strange when you think about it. We are animals that have biological urges. However, we are social animals that live in a society. As a result, we must balance our biological pressures with our societal ones.

Let's just take the first example - teens who do not want to get pregnant.

I'm not sure what you find strange about this. Teenagers will feel the desire to have sex, but they (and/or their families) will be aware that having a baby at a young age can limit your freedom later in life. Thus, teenagers are told to either wait until they are older to have sex, or be sure to use contraception.

> It seems... strange, to expect responsibility and prioritization of biological goals from people at some times and not others.

Control over our base biological goals is a key part of what makes us civilised.


The military does not demand abstinence from sex for years - if they did, it would be an epic disaster. The relationships (sexual and social) that are prohibited are very specific in nature [1]. Soldiers have sex with civilians when on leave in the countries where they're stationed, they have sex with other soldiers they they don't have command authority over and that aren't in the same small unit, they have sex when they're back home between tours.

[1](http://www.army.mil/article/138222/Army_updates_reg_defining...)


Please address the central point rather that seizing on an ambiguity in my post.

That point being, that sexual activity in the armed forces is still controlled and sometimes that drive cannot be satisfied for relatively long periods, and this is commonly accepted.


I am trying to address your central point. Your point is, as far as I can understand, "if it's okay for the military to control soldiers' sex lives in X, Y, and Z ways, why isn't it okay to similarly control teenager's and unmarried people's sex lives?"

But the kinds and degrees of control that work successfully are totally different from the kinds that you're suggesting. The "seizing on an ambiguity" is actually seizing on the fact that the policies you claim support abstinence's effectiveness are not policies of abstinence.


Again, you seem to conflate abstinence with permanent virginity. No, absolutely not.

This is really, really simple. Are you not supposed to have sexual contact for X period of time? If yes, you are abstinent for that period. The period varies, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, but the definition still applies.


That would classify "don't have sex until the weekend" as an abstinence policy, which is ridiculous.

If X period is repeating on and off on semi-regular schedule, then it's not an abstinence policy. That's just scheduling sex. If it's a single continuous period, then it might be an abstinence policy.

Or in other words, it needs to be semi permanent.


Frankly, you're premise is flatly wrong; other drives get passes just as much as sex does or more; the people that take the contrary attitudes you point to on some other biological drives tend also to be equally or more judgemental of others when it comes to sex, and plenty of people who dont get judgemental about those other things get quite judgemental about other peoples sexual habits.

Claiming that sex is the biological drive that gets a pass compared to all others is completely detached from reality.

And the "advocating abstinence doesn't work" position isn't something that comes about out of nowhere and bias that sex is special, its the result of studies of how well that messaging works Manifestly, empirically, abstinence advocacy is generally ineffective.


I'm not referring to judgemental-ness nearly as much as I am tenacity. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that people can't control when they have sex and that it's fruitless to suggest otherwise.

That same conclusion does not seem to apply to eating, socializing, and other base drives.


Why does sex seem to get a pass for "you can't control your biological impulses" when other drives don't?

That isn't really the problem. The problem is more complicated than that. It includes:

Delusion: Modern peoples think birth control is more reliable than it really is.

Guilt: I have seen studies that indicate that certain populations of women have a high incidence of pregnancy because they feel planning for sex makes them a slut, but just getting swept away with emotion makes it "love" and that is somehow OK. So, birth control is proof that "I am a slut."

Religion: Some religions (Catholic church) forbid use if birth control.

I am sure I could add to that list, but I have other things I need to do.


Sex isn't just a biological impulse. Many couples feel that it's important to their bond. One might respond more reductively with "why does the biological need for oxytocin to maintain intimacy get a pass" or somesuch, but the fact is that sex is never something that our evolution needed to control or limit. Having some sex is absolutely necessary for the species to survive. You're comparing that with maladaptive behaviors, whereas it's the exact opposite. You might as well expect people not to eat at all.


Reproducing when the result will end up in a damaged child, or one you can't support, isn't maladaptive?

This is what I mean - we can obviously prioritize our needs and put a lid on biological drives when social needs demand for, pretty much everything else. Why is it so strange to expect that same restraint when it comes to sex?


You must realize how ridiculous your post is. Sex can and does play a role in intimacy, but we do possess brains that can prioritize goods and sacrifice the lesser ones for the greater ones when necessary. It may requires work and habit formation, and some suffering, but it's possible. If all that is keeping your relationship together is sex, then you have larger issues you must address. The rest you've written is just woo.


>Why does sex seem to get a pass for "you can't control your biological impulses" when other drives don't?

You probably have ancestors who could control their eating, but you have no ancestors who successfully controlled their sex drive. Most of our DNA probably comes from the most sexually active/driven humans that ever existed. Humans who could control it or were not as sexually driven didn't shape our DNA as much.


That assumes it's best to attempt reproduction at all times. During a food shortage, people who can control their urges would fair better than those who end up getting pregnant and starving to death.


That's a ridiculous assumption, on so many levels.

A woman can get raped and end up pregnant. She can have zero interest in sex and still reproduce.

"Evolution" favors those who survive long enough to reproduce. Merely being born is not sufficient. If you have 20 kids and none of them live to adulthood, your genes die out. There is a correlation (that seems to run two ways) between having fewer kids and having them survive. Cultures with high child mortality also have high birth rates. So fucking like rabbits does not by itself ensure survival.

Generally speaking, the human race places a high value on a faithful woman. A woman who is faithful is more likely to get support from the father of her children, thus her children are more likely to thrive. Most likely, "bastard" is a swear word or insult because, historically, having a child out of wedlock tended to doom both mother and child to extreme poverty.

Etc.


It's not surprising. Part of it is that the sexual appetite is particularly powerful. Part of it is because people are often weak in being able to endure (not talking repression here) the appetite when it manifests. Add to that the fact that sexual desire, when routinely gratified, can be habit forming. Then add to that a culture that obsesses over it and enables mindless sexual indulgence. Funny because lack of sex never killed a man. A lack of food can. Yet the desperate some claim to feel around sex would have you believe they were starving.

When such a greater good demands we abstain and we don't, we can justly be called selfish. It's something one needs to work on and struggle. Instead of waffling between prudery and licentiousness, one should work on one's sexual prudence (called the virtue of chastity, but the word, I fear, is uncool and infected with cooties, say the cool kids). It involves endurance, mindfulness, and possibly suffering.

Robin Williams once joked that god gave man two heads but just enough blood to operate one at a time. There's something to that.


azernik already answered regarding the drive. Just wanted to comment regarding:

> At least, when you eat too much, you're only harming yourself.

That's not true, just as "if you smoke / drink you're only harming yourself". Provided you have a family you're putting them at risk of your early death. You're both passing down more likely obesity when pregnant (2015 study, but don't have time to google it now) and teaching kids the behaviour that likely leads to obesity for them too.

So yeah, you're actually harming your family not just yourself.


Condoms don't really work for preventing pregnancy though, the failure rate is too high for that. They have success at reducing pregnancy rates, but not at stopping it.


I was not aware of this and without some sources I find it hard to believe. If condoms do not prevent pregnancy then they don't prevent anything.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_me...

No contraceptive is perfect, and the rates vary between methods. Note that some of the methods in the table can be combined (and often are), thus lowering the overall chance of pregnancy.

ars's comment seems a bit extreme; while condoms don't perfectly prevent pregnancy, they are certainly quite effective at reducing the chance of it.


Correct. They don't prevent, they reduce. Used at typical rates, 18% of women will still get pregnant every year (reduced from 85% - it's a large reduction, but I would not call it prevent).

For a situation like this, with (according to geertj's calculations) 40% chance of severe birth defect, that's far too much.

Condoms are not the solution here - in fact I think they do more harm than good because people think they work (like you did), while they are not sufficiently effective.


Google search: how effective is a condom

Result: When used consistently and correctly, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and are the only form of birth control that also can prevent STIs.3,7,8 This is why it's important to follow directions for correct use.

Somebody is lying.


No one is lying. Parent's 18% is the figure for male condom use in reality, vs your 2% for consistent and correct use.

The point is that if you have an entire population of people who say that their primary method of contraception is male condom, you should expect an unplanned pregnancy rate closer to ~18% per year than 2% per year.


Read up on perfect use vs typical use. Quoting numbers from perfect use is very misleading.


>>When we talk about the effectiveness of any kind of contraception, including condoms, we reference two different groups of figures. One is perfect use: that means a person always uses their method and always uses it correctly. These results are often figured via lab studies, where perfect use can be verified. The other is typical use: how your average person generally uses a method. For instance, it’s typical use for women to take a birth control pill late or miss one now and then, have a patch slip off, or only put a condom on after intercourse has already begun. Typical use rates also include not using a given method at all. In other words, the typical use rate for condoms is about people who, when asked what method of birth control they use, say condoms, even if they only use a condom one out of every three times they have intercourse. - See more at: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2009/10/02/get-real-how-we... <<

So in essence a condom works if you use it and if you don't use it and get pregnant it is not very effective. WTF? At this point I'm cursing for wasting my time.


No. Condoms can tear, are more effective when also used with a spermicide, etc.

"Perfect" use increases effectiveness, but even if you aren't just derpy about it, they can still fail.

I routinely see this assumption that birth control works perfectly if you just use it, and that simply isn't true.


Those numbers are completely useless because they don't question the reliability of condoms but the more social aspects of it (eg: how good are people on average in using them). If you are capable of using birth control then they will work just fine to prevent a pregnancy.


They're also percentages with no actual absolute numbers. People often interpret percentages while falsely assuming that other things remain constant. For example, if condom use is accepted and people come to believe condoms work, they may be more likely to have sex more frequently because their fear of contracting STDs and pregnancy have decreased. This means that the failure rate no longer pertains to the original frequency of sexual intercourse but the new one. This way, the number of actual failures (vs. just the rate) may exceed the original, and with it the number of abortions. This way, condoms actually enable the behavior whose consequences they were intended to limit. Yay, big picture.


This policy can only be implemented, if the church agrees to pitch in. Otherwise, almost impossible.




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