The World Needs a Zika Vaccine

Helen Branswell – STAT, 01/29/2016

When public health official briefed President Barack Obama about the alarming and rapidly evolving Zika virus situation this week, the message that emerged from Washington was clear: The world needs a vaccine.

The same message has emerged from the World Health Organization, which announced Thursday that it would be convening an emergency committee of outside experts to advise it on the extraordinary outbreak “spreading explosively” through the Americas.

“The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound,” WHO’s Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, announced during a special session on Zika in Geneva. “We need to get some answers quickly.”

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Brazil Is Doing Its Part in the Global Fight Against Zika

Luiz Alberto Machado- Quartely Americas, 02/04/2016

On Monday February 1, the World Health Organization/ (WHO) declared the Zika virus, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, an international public health emergency. The announcement follows the declaration by Brazil of a national public health emergency. An outbreak of the Zika virus was detected last year in Brazil. The virus has since been found in several countries in Latin America and, more recently, the United States. The main concern is over the virus’s link to microcephaly, a congenital condition where a child is born with a smaller than normal head size and impaired brain development.

The WHO declaration will allow for better coordination of actions and mobilization of the necessary funding in a global effort aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, as well as speeding up the research to develop a vaccine and new therapeutic drugs. Despite the real public health risk, it is important to avoid misinformation. At this point, there is no reason to cancel business or pleasure trips, but extra precautions must be taken by pregnant women, who should talk to a doctor before travelling to the most affected areas.

The Zika is not a new Ebola, its symptoms being similar to a mild flu in adults. The Zika virus is of course a matter of concern, given association with microcephaly in newborn babies. More data and standardized protocols are needed before the link – first discovered by Brazilian doctors – between the virus and such cases of abnormally small heads and brain damage can be fully clarified.

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Brazil minister says no plans to cancel Rio Games

Stephen Wade – Associated Press, 02/05/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian organizers have reiterated they have no intention of canceling the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of the outbreak of the Zika virus, with Sports Minister George Hilton saying the topic “is not in discussion.”

Hilton issued a statement Thursday saying he “lamented material and opinions in the press” speculating that South America’s first Olympics might be called off.

“The Brazilian government is fully committed to ensure that the 2016 Rio games take place in an atmosphere of security and tranquility,” Hilton wrote.

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Three D.C. residents, including pregnant woman, have the Zika virus

Aaron C. Davis, Julie Zauzmer – Washington Post, 02/04/2016

Three people in the District of Columbia, including a pregnant woman, have contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

All three caught the virus while traveling in Latin American countries, which have been most affected by the outbreak that the World Health Organization is calling a global health emergency.

The WHO has said that the virus is “strongly suspected” to cause the birth defect microencephaly, in which babies are born with small heads and may suffer debilitating disabilities.

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After criticism, Brazil transferring Zika samples to US

Raphael Satter, Maria Cheng – ABC News, 02/05/2016

Brazilian officials say they’re sending a set of samples related to the Zika outbreak to the United States, a move which follows complaints that the country was hoarding disease data and biological material.

The announcement came hours after The Associated Press revealed that international health officials were frustrated at Brazil’s refusal to share enough viral samples and other information to answer the most worrying question about the outbreak: Whether the disease is truly causing a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads.

U.S. and U.N. officials told AP that Brazil probably shared fewer than 20 samples when experts say hundreds or thousands of samples are needed to track the virus’ evolution and develop accurate diagnostics and effective drugs and vaccines. Many countries’ national laboratories are relying on older strains from outbreaks in the Pacific and Africa, the AP found.

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Questioning an approach to Zika control: delaying pregnancy

Donald G. McNeil Jr. – New York Times, 02/05/2016

Health officials in several countries stricken by the Zika virus have given their female citizens an unprecedented warning: “Don’t get pregnant.”

The advice has been greeted in many quarters with a mixture of shock and derision. Medical historians said they had never heard the like. Advocates for women mocked it as unrealistic, disconnected from the difficult lives of women in a part of the world where contraception can be hard to obtain and abortion is often illegal.

Yet a growing number of infectious disease experts say that delaying pregnancy could work — and may be the most effective way to break the back of this global epidemic.

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The Heat: Brazil at a Crossroads

Paulo Sotero, Lucrecia Franco,  Ligia Maura Costa, Bernardo Sork, Fabio Ostermann – CCTV, 01/28/2016

Political upheaval, economic downturn and corruption scandals: Brazil is at a crossroads.

So, what’s the way forward for a Latin American giant in crisis? 2015 was not Brazil’s easiest year. Several widespread protests across the country called for change. Confidence in president Dilma Rousseff reached a record low. A scandal at state-run oil conglomerate Petrobras exposed corruption. All while the economy stagnated and began a free fall. 2016 hasn’t started off much better either. For a Brazilian perspective, from Rio de Janeiro, The Heat was joined by CCTV America’s Lucrecia Franco. To discuss the current political and economic climate: Ligia Maura Costa is a professor of legal studies at Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo. Bernardo Sorj is a professor of Sociology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. To discuss Brazil’s future and the youth movement: Fabio Ostermann is one of the founders and a former coordinator of Movimento Brasil Livre. Paulo Sotero is director of the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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