By Sylvia Stead for the Globe and Mail
The Zika virus and the health fears have grabbed the attention of the public and the media. While the interest is there, there have also been calls to use caution in the coverage of the virus and its link to serious birth defects such as microcephaly (babies born with smaller heads and brains).
“I see that GAM is not going nuts with Zika, while [broadcast media] are doing lots of ‘Canada scared’ stories. I applaud the decision-making not to frighten. Is this a conscious decision?” one reader asked.
Science writer Joe Rojas-Burke said on Twitter (@rojasburke) that he was troubled by what he called “the media’s cavalier use of microcephaly photos, when these human beings are used as decoration, their stories untold.” He noted especially two photos of infants “used over and over by media outlets.”
Earlier this week, The Globe and Mail’s South America correspondent, Stephanie Nolen, wrote about the debate over reproductive rights in conservative countries.
In the newspaper, the story included a long-lens photo of a woman, Mylene Helena Ferreira, carrying home her five-month-old son David, who was born with microcephaly.
Online is a much larger package showing a photo with a public-health technician’s arm covered with sterile mosquitoes. It also has a video that includes three photos of affected babies and an interview with a pregnant Canadian woman who decided to cancel a trip to Jamaica after she received medical advice.
The first reference to the Zika virus came last May, also by Ms. Nolen, who wrote a two-page Folio article on an experiment to genetically modify mosquitoes. Online, it includes photos of mosquitoes, a video and photo showing the release of genetically modified mosquitoes, a world map showing the risk areas and graphics showing how the mosquitoes are developed and how the genetically modified mosquito works.