|Zika Hot spot in the City of Miami.|
Zika. It's no joke. Neither is rare pediatric cancer.
Within days, after evidence that four cases of Zika virus were contracted locally, Gov. Rick Scott and his Florida Department of Health released an epidemiological analysis of where, exactly, they suspected the Zika-bearing mosquito bites to have occurred. The news, making national headlines, shows a concerned governor addressing a real public health threat.
Well consider this: Gov. Scott and his Florida Department of Health have sat on data for years, based on statistical evidence of a rare pediatiatric cancer cluster in Miami-Dade County.
Today, the State of Florida could produce a map -- in street and block level detail -- showing every instance of rare pediatric cancer. Why hasn't Gov. Rick Scott responded with the same urgency as Zika?
The state's standard response: the privacy shield. In other words, to raise the question: the rights of privacy are OK based on a perceived stigma of cancer, but not Zika? The state has other responses: the correlation between cause and effect of rare pediatric cancer is hard to pin down. Moreover, the long incubation period for cancers means that current block level addresses may not reflect where the cancer was contracted. Then, there is the question of "blame".
With Zika, it is simple to assess blame. Zika occurs through a widely despised insect. In fact, we kill the insects with chemicals that can cause even more harm.
Zika is a very bad virus for a small percentage of people. Rare pediatric cancer is a terrible result for every family member it touches.
Why wouldn't the State of Florida and Gov. Rick Scott do everything in their power to illuminate the facts for citizens? On this question, the state and Scott administration are silent.
The reason is clear. Wherever pediatric cancer clusters have been alleged or identified, there has been a public convulsion.
Polluters who are big campaign funders are horrified by examples like Erin Brockovitch, an American legal clerk and environmental activist, who helped build a major tort case against a California polluter on behalf of cancer victims in 1993. Disease is political, and it is much easier being political against a mosquito.
According to University of West Florida researcher Dr. Raid Amin, Miami-Dade County isn't the only rare pediatric cancer cluster in Florida. Although his analyses have been peer-reviewed and verified six times by the nation's premier statistical organization, the American Statistical Association, the state has refused to provide an independent analysis based on verification of a street and block level census as it is doing with Zika in Miami-Dade.
The reason: the map. Maps are very powerful tools. Dr. Amin's maps of likely rare pediatric cancer clusters are only at the zip code level, based on the limited report he was able to obtain for research purposes. Because his maps are zip codes, the maps lack the power and punch of the Zika maps.
If Dr. Amin had been given confidential access to the street and block level data, or if the State of Florida would publish a verifiable, independent analysis at that same level of detail, the maps would be just as compelling as the map of Zika infections in Miami-Dade.
That data is not only available, it is accessible with a few key strokes. Withholding it, as Gov. Rick Scott is doing, is a great disservice to the taxpayers and citizens of Florida, but especially to the families of rare pediatric cancer victims. Then, Gov. Scott -- with his deep background in the health care industry -- would have to do something about those maps. Much easier to blame a mosquito we know to harbor a bad virus than to sort out environmental factors that lead to rare pediatric cancer.