On September 7, 2016 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stated on the Senate floor and also in the press that the Zika Virus leads to “vision impairment and blindness.” When Reid’s office was contacted by FactCheck they claimed that Reid sourced this information from a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Ian Lipkin, a professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University.
Interestingly, Lipkin’s piece does not mention anything about Zika-related blindness or vision impairment in adults or newborns.
Reid’s office also claimed this information came from two research papers, one published in Cell Reports and another in the New England Journal of Medicine. Again, neither of these sources concluded that Zika causes blindness or visual impairment as Reid claimed.
According to the CDC adults who come into contact with Zika have little to no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur are fever, rash, joint pain or pinkeye. All of which will last up to a week. However, infection during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects which include microcephaly (underdeveloped brains and heads) and in some instances hearing loss, impaired growth and eye issues that do not include blindness.
A study conducted by Washington University on mice showed that the virus does infect specific cells in different regions of the eye as genetic material was found in tears. This suggests that Zika can be transmitted through body fluids. Like humans, mice in the study suffered from eye inflammation and pinkeye when exposed to Zika. None of the mice went blind or suffered permanent vision impairment.
Harry Reid’s claim that Zika causes vision impairment and blindness is a BLATANT LIE.
By Dave Van Zandt