Obama asks Congress for $1.8bn to battle Zika virus

Barney Jopson – Financial Times, 02/08/2016

The White House is asking Congress for $1.8bn to help combat the Zika virus in the US and overseas as alarm grows over the illness’s spread.

The Obama administration said on Monday that it would use the funds in part to prepare for the potential onslaught of the virus in the mainland US.

The White House said it was preparing to submit the request to Congress formally but it was unclear how Republican leaders would respond.

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Brazil’s real: how low can it go?

Joe Leahy, John Paul Rathbone – Financial Times, 02/08/2016

When Dilma Rousseff attended the 2016 opening session of Brazil’s congress this week, she appealed to lawmakers to approve tax increases to tackle a widening gap in the country’s public finances.

Most critically, the president called for the reintroduction of a tax on financial transactions, known as the CPMF, that was abandoned in 2007 after objections from business. Opposition congressmen booed her.

But with Brazil reporting a budget deficit last year that was the biggest among emerging economies except for Saudi Arabia at over 10 per cent, unpopular measures are needed to save the country from a deepening fiscal hole, analysts say

U.S. athletes should consider not attending Olympics if fear Zika

Daniel Bases, Joshua Schneyer – Reuters, 02/08/2016

The United States Olympic Committee told U.S. sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.

The message was delivered in a conference call involving USOC officials and leaders of U.S. sport federations in late January, according to two people who participated in the call.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil “if they don’t feel comfortable going. Bottom line,” said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

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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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