Insect issues are not typically featured in newspaper cartoons. The political wrangling over public health funding to address the expanding Zika Virus epidemic has made its way to the NYTimes Sunday Cartoon Strip. In an environment where our governing elites have a philosophy of privatizing government services, support for public health measures falls in spite of past success. For Zika, the only private health measures are to use mosquito repellents, avoid mosquito bites and avoid areas where Zika is transmitted. Such measures are marginally effective and failed to slow Zika expansion.
Public health measures work to reduce the areas where Zika is transmitted, reduce the mosquito populations and reduce the rate of Zika transmission. Public health measures include education about private health measures that make them more effective. Public health measures will not stop Zika entirely, but promise to greatly reduce the scope of the problem, the long term costs and personal heartaches of families who must address the birth defects that are inevitable with Zika exposure.
The comic, designed to appeal to tribal human emotions, pokes fun at a variety of easy non solutions. The real effort is a lot of hard work by specialists in insect biology and mosquito borne diseases. A lot of the work is unglamorous and tedious. Those who work on public health issues often do so because they are making a real difference in the lives of many people. Their hard work on public health requires public investment. Sometimes, that investment is difficult to obtain when the full impact of a looming public health crisis has not yet hit. Too often, the political will cannot be generated until after the problem has appeared and too late for some of the more effective measures to be implemented.