The Zika virus.
Anyone not living under a rock for the past month should know that the mosquito-carried virus can lead to dangerous birth defects and has already made landfall in the United States. Thinking of having sex? Well that may not be safe anymore either.
While the spread of the virus in South America has sparked a World Health Organization global emergency on par with the West African Ebola epidemic and is suspected to have contributed to hundreds if not thousands of cases of microcephaly, some — mostly online — are crying foul with a multitude of colorful conspiracy theories.
Like with AIDS or Ebola, those with a penchant for tin-foil hats have responded in force to official pronouncements and the stern admonitions of public health officials. Today, a plethora of conspiracy theories ranging on the shadowy cabal behind the virus — and much more have proliferated.
In the great Reddit Zika inquisition, the chief suspect right now appears to be the British biotech company Oxitec, which in 2015 did trumpet the release of genetically modified mosquitos in Brazil in an area that is now currently being affected by Zika.
At the time, the company said the genetic mosquitos were designed help kill off the local mosquito population, and the spread of an even more dangerous virus, Dengue. But online commenters vehemently disagreed. "Is it too much to ask for a moratorium on these type of genetic experiments?" Reddit user redditsucksatbanning wrote in his original posting.
Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry told Mic that the accusations were beyond baseless. "This is total nonsense. It stems from a single blog that one person wrote," Parry said, adding that his company had no intention of changing course or abandoning testing. "All the serious independent scientific evaluation is completely behind this and yet you have one person writing nonsense in a conspiracy theory blog and it gets picked up and used."
Parry also pointed out that his company had conducted tests in other parts of the world which have not resulted in the emergence of Zika and that the virus has been discernible in humans since 1947.
Wait. 1947? On that question, another group has also found a suitable jumping off point, that in fact Zika was a creation of the U.S. government and the Rockefeller Foundation, the latter of which brought it to life through experiments on a captive monkey.
For its part, Rockefeller doesn't do itself any favors in partnering with the American Type Culture Collection to sell samples of the virus online. At first blush, it appears that the virus can be easily purchased for £599 or about $874, slightly less than this high end cupcake. The pathogens are, in fact, incredibly difficult to procure, requiring extensive documentation from a medical and academic institution. You could try it, as researchers at DoNotLink.com did, but it's not too likely.
"You won't be able to purchase anything for your own personal use." Amelia Reed, customer service advisor from LGC Standards, which also partnered with the ATCC to sell the virus told Mic.
But conspiracy theorists remain unconvinced of any of these official explanations.
"Is the burden of proof on me? Fuck no," Jon Rappoport, the owner, chief writer and sole employee of NoMoreFakeNews.com told Mic. Rappoport said that it was the responsibility of Zika Cassandra's to make their case, adding that he was skeptical about whether Zika was a real threat. Citing a similar brouhaha over swine flu and other recent global health scares, Rappoport said he was not convinced that a credible link between Zika and microcephaly had been established.
"Brazil is the biggest user of pesticides in the world. We're talking about Atrazine, we're talking about Roundup," he said. "Brazil is flooded with toxic pesticides and big corporate farming. Who needs to be protected here if there are more Microcephaly cases that people expect?"
Rappoport, who in his own words wanted to avoid sounding crazy, declined to speculate further as to what might cause public health authorities to pin the blame on Zika. "I've been around the block on these phony epidemics for a long time and I know what to look for."
In a similar vein, anyone "around the block" on the conspiracy beat also knows that at some point Bill Gates makes a nefarious appearance, as he did in this case combined with a pernicious plot at population control.
And with Zika continuing to rage, now beginning a march into the United States, we can expect many, many more colorful theories in the months ahead.