Since the outbreak of the mosquito-spread Zika virus in eastern Brazil nine months ago, the same region has seen an increase is the congenital defect microcephaly. A connection is suspected, but not confirmed.
But online conspiracy theorists would never become such if they bothered waiting for confirmation or even suspicion. Instead, within minutes, you can let your minions and cohorts know that Zika is being spread by genetically modified mosquitoes as part of a population control plot. Regarding the population control part, the theorists are right. The biotech corporation Oxitec began breeding specialized mosquitoes as a means to limit the flying insects’ numbers.
From Christie Wilcox at Discover, we learn these mosquitoes were genetically engineered to need a certain antibiotic to survive in the wild. Then when a wild female mosquito breeds with a male Oxitec one, it is a death sentence for the offspring. Wilcox explained, “If you release enough such males in an area, then the females won’t have a choice but to mate with them. There will be few to no successful offspring in the next generation, and the population is controlled.”
Now, what does all this have to do with a human birth defect that results in a small brain? The theorists’ main argument is the mistaken belief that the Zika outbreak began in the same time and place as the first Oxitec mosquito release. However, the virus epicenter is on the Brazilian coast, hundreds of miles from where the mosquitoes were released. And again, these mosquitoes are unlikely to be able to reproduce and there is no evidence they are carrying the virus.
A competing conspiracy theory concedes the genetically modified mosquitoes are not carrying the virus, but only because it does not exist. It is a ruse to further enrich Big Pharma with a new vaccine, which the government will use to further increase peoples’ blind obedience to it. This plot would had to have been hatched it least as early as 1947, when the virus was first identified (or fabricated, if you’re a conspiracy theorist).
Yet another evidence-free option to choose from is the claim that the virus is caused by the Tdap vaccine. Anti-vaxxers point out that the same year the virus began spreading, pregnant Brazilians began receiving the anti-pertussis vaccine in the third trimester.
However, obstetrician and skeptic blogger, Dr. Amy Tutuer, noted that third-trimester Tdap vaccines are common worldwide, while the microcephaly outbreak is limited to coastal Brazil. Moreover, she said, “Microcephaly is a defect that originates in the early weeks of pregnancy when the brain is forming,” meaning an event in the third trimester would have no impact on a process that was completed months earlier.
If unable to decide which of these baseless assertions is most attractive, theorists can watch an Alex Jones video that, at various times, describes the virus as either nonexistent, the result of vaccination, or a Bill Gates plot to foment genocide. What skeptics would see as inconsistency, theorists see as sensationally supple and awesomely ambiguous.