Dom Phillips, Nick Miroff – Washington Post, 02/11/2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s health ministry said Thursday that a 20-year-old woman infected with Zika has become the country’s third adult fatality linked to the virus, but scientists caution that they’re only beginning to identify Zika’s potential risks to human health.
After falling ill last April, the woman began coughing up blood, and died after a 12-day hospitalization, according to Brazilian government researchers. The cause of death was registered as pneumonia, but her blood samples later tested positive for Zika.
Brazilian researchers said the patient’s respiratory problems were unusual for a case of Zika, so other factors could have contributed to her death. “She could have developed bronchial pneumonia and the association with the Zika virus made this worse,” said Pedro Vasconcelos, the Brazilian government scientist who led the tests.
Brazil is signing an agreement with the University of Texas to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, the country’s health minister said Thursday, adding the goal is for the vaccine to be ready for clinical testing within 12 months.
Marcelo Castro said at a news conference that the Brazilian government will invest $1.9 million in the research, which will be jointly conducted by the University of Texas and the Evandro Chagas Institute in the Amazonian city of Belem.
He said the Health Ministry also has reached vaccine partnerships with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is looking to work with pharmaceutical giant GSK.
Anna Edgerton – Bloomberg Business, 02/10/2016
Zika is a rarity in Brazil: a crisis that isn’t widely blamed on Dilma Rousseff’s government. And a mobilization against mosquitoes may even help the president climb out of a political hole.
In the northeastern town of Limoeiro, corruption scandals and a deepening recession have eroded support for Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. But the town in Pernambuco state is also at the center of Brazil’s viral epidemic. Glecya Aparecida Fernandes de Melo, a local lab technician whose whole family has fallen ill, says people there are signing up for government initiatives to combat the disease, rather than blaming politicians or organizing protests.
“We need to put aside this political bickering and be more united in the education campaign, or else this outbreak will get worse,” Fernandes said. “We have to take back our city from the mosquito.”
Ashley Milne-Tyte – Marketplace, 02/05/2016
Carnival celebrations are kicking off in Brazil: days of partying and parades, complete with masks, glitter and headdresses. Traditionally, the whole point of carnival is to be lavish — it’s not a time for holding back. At least, it hasn’t been until now, when Brazil is in deep economic crisis. This year one city near Sao Pãulo, Campinas, can’t fund the usual parade put on by local samba schools.
Fernanda Curi works in advertising production in Sao Pãulo. “The mayor is saying, instead of doing the parade, they’re buying medicine and an ambulance,” she said. “They’re justifying why they’re not doing carnival … because they need to buy what’s really essential.”She said smaller cities like Campinas will suffer as crowds thin, but the big ones like Rio de Janeiro, where she’s headed this week, will be fine.
Paulo Sotero directs the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. He said Brazilians are generally an optimistic bunch, but these days morale is low. It’s not just the lousy economy. The Zika virus is spreading, and there’s an ongoing government corruption scandal.”This is no time for Carnival,” he said. “Brazil is facing a very serious crisis.”
The New York Times/AP, 02/04/2016
Brazil is not sharing enough samples and disease data to let researchers determine whether the Zika virus is, as feared, linked to the increased number of babies born with abnormally small heads in the South American country, U.N. and U.S. health officials say.
Without viruses from Brazil — the epicenter of the ongoing Zika crisis — laboratories in the United States and Europe are being forced to work with samples from previous outbreaks, and is frustrating efforts to develop diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines. Scientists tell The Associated Press that having so little to work with is hampering their ability to track the virus’ evolution.
One major problem appears to be Brazilian law. At the moment, it is technically illegal for Brazilian researchers and institutes to share genetic material, including blood samples containing Zika and other viruses.
The Guardian, 02/03/2016
President Dilma Rousseff has called on all Brazilians to join a “mega-operation” against the Zika virus later this month that will attempt to destroy the breeding grounds of the mosquitos that carry it.
The mass mobilisation on 13 February will involve hundreds of thousands of personnel from the armed forces as well as public officials in a house-to-house campaign to identify and eradicate the stagnant waters where the parasites thrive.
“This is a struggle to protect our families, a struggle that should unite all of us,” Rousseff told the nation on Wednesday in a televised address that was broadcast on all of the main TV and radio channels.
Reed Johnson, Luciana Magalhaes – The Wall Street Journal, 02/03/2016
Health officials in Brazil reported two cases of the Zika virus being transmitted through blood transfusions, the latest challenge in the global battle against the fast-spreading mosquito-borne epidemic.
Christie Wilcox – Discover, 01/31/2016
A new ridiculous rumor is spreading around the internets. According to conspiracy theorists, the recent outbreak of Zika can be blamed on the British biotech company Oxitec, which some are saying even intentionally caused the disease as a form of ethnic cleansing or population control. The articles all cite a lone Redditor who proposed the connection on January 25th to the Conspiracy subreddit. “There are no biological free lunches,” says one commenter on the idea. “Releasing genetically altered species into the environment could have disastrous consequences” another added. “Maybe that’s what some entities want to happen…?”
For some reason, it’s been one of those months where random nonsense suddenly hits mainstream. Here are the facts: there’s no evidence whatsoever to support this conspiracy theory, or any of the other bizarre, anti-science claims that have popped up in the past few weeks. So let’s stop all of this right here, right now: The Earth is round, not flat (and it’s definitely not hollow). Last year was the hottest year on record, and climate change is really happening (so please just stop, Mr. Cruz). And FFS, genetically modified mosquitoes didn’t start the Zika outbreak.
Anthony Boadle, Lisandra Paraguassu, 02/02/2016
Brazil’s top health official said on Monday that the Zika virus outbreak is proving to be worse than believed because most cases show no symptoms, but improved testing should allow the country to get a better grip on the burgeoning public health crisis.
Health Minister Marcelo Castro told Reuters that Brazil will start mandatory reporting of cases by local governments next week when most states will have labs equipped to test for Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has quickly spread through Latin America. The virus has no vaccine or cure at present.
On Monday, the World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak to be a global emergency, a decision that should help fast-track international action and research priorities.
Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 02/01/2016
Brazil, the country at the frontline of the Zika crisis, has admitted it is struggling to comprehend, let alone cope with, the epidemic.
A little more than six months before the country hosts the Olympics, the government has dispatched hundreds of thousands of troops and public officials on mosquito-eradication campaigns to minimise the risks.
But senior officials admit they are still unsure of the scale of the problem they face because the country’s estimate of 1.5m cases is based on guesswork.