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Zika Map In Florida Raises Questions

Zika. It's no joke. Neither is rare pediatric cancer.
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Zika. It's no joke. Neither is rare pediatric cancer.

Within days after evidence that four cases of Zika virus were contracted in Miami, Gov. Rick Scott and his Florida Department of Health released a map 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: 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. No map.

Today, the State of Florida could produce a map in street and block level detail like the Zika cases, showing every instance of rare pediatric cancer. Why hasn't Gov. Rick Scott responded with the same urgency as Zika?

Why would privacy rights cover cancer data but not Zika? The state has other stated reasons to conceal: 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. We hate mosquitos so much we routinely kill them 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 lasting and 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.

One 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 the maps created by Dr. Amin's team only show zip codes, they 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 data, as Gov. Rick Scott is doing with statistical evidence of rare pediatric cancer clusters in Florida -- not just Miami -- , is a great disservice to the taxpayers and citizens, but especially to the families of 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.