Rousseff Bets on Mosquito Hunt to Regain Popularity

Andrea Jube – Valor, 02/11/2016

President Dilma Rousseff bets on the fight against the Zika virus and the microcephaly epidemic as a vaccine to contain the progress of Operation Car Wash investigations on former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In the opinion of Rousseff aides, the affected image of her predecessor hits the president directly and makes her more vulnerable to the impeachment that although asleep, it has not been buried. She will command the mega-operation scheduled for next Saturday, when 220,000 military officials will take the streets to battle the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Presidential aides heard by Valor recognize that the deconstruction of Mr. Lula’s image spills in Ms. Rousseff, although she has chosen not to make a public defense of her predecessor. “Lula is her political guarantor and of our government,” says an advisor close to President Rousseff. For him, with Mr. Lula weakened politically, the government is further weakened.

The Car Wash siege of Mr. Lula has narrowed down in recent days. On the eve of Carnival, Judge Sérgio Moro authorized the Federal Police to open a specific inquiry to investigate the connection of a ranch in Atibaia, São Paulo, visited by the former president, with construction company OAS, one of the targets of the operation. The property is registered in the name of two partners of Fábio Luís Lula da Silva, son of Mr. Lula: Fernando Bittar and Jonas Suassuna, partners at Gamecorp, which renders services to telco Oi. None of them have commented the allegations yet.

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Study in Brazil links Zika virus to eye damage in babies

Catherine Saint Louis – The New York Times, 02/09/16

Infants infected with the Zika virus may be born not only with unusually small heads, but also with eye abnormalities that threaten vision, researchers reported on Tuesday in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

The study described damage to the retina or optic nerve in 10 of 29 newborns examined at Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil. All the infants were presumed to have been infected with the Zika virus and had small heads, a condition called microcephaly. Other causes of the defect, like infection with rubella or toxoplasmosis, were ruled out.

Seven out of the 10 newborns had defects in both eyes, while three infants had damage in a single eye. The most common problems were black speckled lesions in the back of the eye, large areas of tissue damage in the retina itself, or damage in the layer of blood vessels and tissue below the retina.

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Zika Virus: Survey Shows Many Latin Americans Lack Faith in Handling of Crisis

Jessica Glenza – The Guardian, 02/09/2016

Many Latin Americans doubt that public health officials in their countries can contain the Zika virus, but nevertheless said they find it reasonable to follow official advice and delay having children, a new study has shown.

The virus, which has spread rapidly through the Americas, has been linked to a rise in microcephaly in Brazil, a debilitating birth defect where children are born with abnormally small heads. Last week the World Health Organisation declared the wave of birth defects a public health emergency of international concern, but, other than that it is carried by mosquitoes, there is little scientific knowledge about Zika.

The study, provided exclusively to the Guardian by the data analysis firm RIWI Corporation, found that not only did some Latin Americans lack confidence in their governments’ response to the virus, but many were unsure how it is spread.

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Brazilian Studies Aim to Unravel Zika’s Link to Birth Defect

Julie Steenhuysen – Reuters, 02/09/2016

At Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil, Dr. Antonio Almeida and a team of specialists are closely following two groups of women: Those who deliver babies with abnormally small heads and those who deliver apparently normal babies.

The hospital is one of three in this city on Brazil’s eastern coast where investigators are studying the most urgent question of the Zika outbreak: Is the virus causing a spike in birth defects, and, if so, how great is the risk?

The answer will help shape the response to the rapid spread of Zika throughout the Americas. Concerns over the potential link to microcephaly have prompted a U.S. alert advising pregnant women against travel to 31 countries and territories with outbreaks.

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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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