How Brazil, the darling of the developing world, came undone

Nick Miroff and Dom Phillips – Washington Post,  04/15/2016

It was called the “Brazil model,” or simply “the Lula model,” back when this country’s economy was roaring and its president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was a superstar of the developing world.

By balancing support for big business with big social-welfare programs, the union boss turned statesman presided over an era of growth that lifted tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. Lula’s presidency cut a new template for a Latin American left that had long insisted class struggle and revolution were the only road to fairness. The coronation came when Brazil was chosen to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, confirming its rise as a global power.

Now Brazil is limping to the Games. Its economy is facing its worst crisis since the 1930s. A Zika virus epidemic rages. And on Sunday, lawmakers will vote on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked successor. Impeachment appears increasingly likely.

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Army presence diminishes refusal to entry in houses, say health agents

Fabrício Lobel – Folha de S.Paulo, 02/17/2016

Behind the house curtains, Nancy Wolf, 81, a retired teacher, notices the movement in front of her gate. A man announces he works for the city hall in an action against the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

She hesitates a bit, but looks at the two Army soldiers in uniforms accompanying the health agent and allows them to enter her home.
“I don´t open the door for anyone. We get apprehensive. I felt safer just because of the Army,” says Nancy, who lives in Santana neighborhood. Part of the northern district of São Paulo underwent an operation to hunt down the Aedes larvae, promoted by the city hall and the Army.

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Conspiracy theories about Zika spread through Brazil with the virus

Andrew Jacobs – The New York Times, 02/16/2016

SALVADOR, Brazil — The Zika virus, some Brazilians are convinced, is the inadvertent creation of a British biotech company that has been releasing genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue fever in Brazil. Others here and elsewhere see it as a plot by global elites to depopulate the earth and install a “one-world government.”

And after a group of Argentine doctors asserted that a larvicide, not the mosquito-borne Zika virus, was to blame for a surge in cases of the birth defect known as microcephaly, Brazil’s southernmost state went so far over the weekend as to ban the use of the larvicide in its drinking water — even though scientists and health officials insist there is no such link.

Like Zika itself, rumors about it have replicated with viral ferocity through social media and word of mouth, frustrating the Brazilian authorities as they grapple with a poorly understood pathogen whose origins and implications are still something of a mystery. With many of the rumors started and spread abroad, Brazil’s Health Ministry has been scrambling to do damage control.

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Brazil says a third adult has died of Zika

Dom Phillips, Nick Miroff – Washington Post, 02/11/2016

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.

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The Zika Virus and Brazilian Women’s Right to Choose

Deborah Diniz – The New York Times, 02/08/2016

BRAZIL is in a state of crisis. Since October, there have been more than 4,000 suspected cases of babies born with a neurological syndrome associated with the Zika virus. The Health Ministry has suggested that women avoid pregnancy until the epidemic has passed or more is known about it.

I am a Brazilian woman. My friends who are planning to have children soon are worried about Zika. But they don’t need to be too concerned. In our well-to-do neighborhood in Brasília, the capital, there has not been a single case of a baby with the birth defects associated with the Zika epidemic. As far as I know, not one woman here has even been infected by the virus.

Lost in the panic about Zika is an important fact: The epidemic mirrors the social inequality of Brazilian society. It is concentrated among young, poor, black and brown women, a vast majority of them living in the country’s least-developed regions. The women at greatest risk of contracting Zika live in places where the mosquito is part of their everyday lives, where mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya were already endemic. They live in substandard, crowded housing in neighborhoods where stagnant water, the breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes, is everywhere. These women can’t avoid bites: They need to be outdoors from dawn until dusk to work, shop and take care of their children. And they are the same women who have the least access to sexual and reproductive health care.

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Brazil’s economy rains on its carnival parades

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.”

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Brazil Finds Zika Virus in Human Urine and Saliva, but Risk Is Unclear

Vinod Sreeharsha- The New York Times, 02/05/2016

Brazilian scientists said Friday that they had detected the presence of the Zika virus in samples of human saliva and urine, a first for Brazil.

The Brazilian researchers warned that the virus might have the potential to spread through kissing or urine, but they were quick to point out that this still remains to be proved. Nonetheless, the announcement amplified concern in Brazil with many people pointing out the possible impact to the annual Carnival celebration, which began on Friday.

“It is something we have to further investigate,” said Dr. Myrna Bonaldo, the head of the Flavivirus Molecular Biology Laboratory at Fiocruz, a prominent research institute here. “We are not yet sure if Zika can be transmitted to others” through saliva or urine, she said.

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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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