Brazil says there is ‘almost zero’ risk of Zika during Olympics. Really?

Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 07/06/2016

A small but growing number of athletes, from golfer Rory McIlroy to cyclist Tejay van Garderen, have canceled their trips to the Summer Olympics in Rio due to fears about the Zika epidemic.

But what are the chances that visitors and athletes could become infected?

“Almost zero,” Brazil’s new health minister, Ricardo Barros, said recently. He and other officials note there are far fewer mosquitoes active in August, when the Games are being held, because it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Already, reports of new cases have plunged in Rio state — from 3,000 to 3,500 a week earlier in the year to just 30 cases a week in June, officials say. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the city’s buildings have been inspected for mosquito breeding sites, authorities maintain.

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Abortion Requests ‘Double’ in Brazil due to Zika Concerns: Study

Conor Gaffey – Newsweek, 06/23/2016

Requests for abortions have doubled in Brazil and Ecuador due to fears about the Zika virus, according to a study.

Researchers found that demand for terminations also increased in other Latin American countries affected by the virus, which has been strongly linked to microcephaly—a condition where children are born with underdeveloped brains and small heads.

A Zika outbreak in Brazil in 2015 has infected around 40,000 people, with estimates of unconfirmed cases rising to almost 150,000. The virus, which originated in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda, has spread to a total of 39 countries and territories, most of which are in Latin America, where abortion remains illegal in many countries.

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Rio’s Forgotten Health Crisis

Anne Vigna – Americas Quarterly, 06/16/2016

As Rio de Janeiro prepares to receive hundreds of thousands of tourists and athletes from over 200 countries for the Olympic Games, health authorities are working overtime to combat the spread of the Zika virus. But beyond Zika, the city hides shockingly high rates of tuberculosis, especially in its favelas.

The infectious lung disease, not common in Europe since the 18th and 19th centuries, killed a total of 840 people in Rio de Janeiro state in 2014, including 440 in the city itself.

That’s the highest number in any of the country’s 27 state capital cities, amounting to 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014.

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Zika cases at Olympics will be ‘close to zero’, says Brazil sports minister

Owen Gibson – The Guardian, 06/06/2016

Brazil’s new sports minister has predicted there will be “close to zero” cases of Zika recorded during the Olympic Games as he mounted a trenchant rearguard action over a host of issues clouding preparations for Rio.

Leonardo Picciani, who recently became the third person to fill the role since March, said he was convinced the Games, which start on 5 August, would be a success despite a backdrop of political and economic turmoil and a range of other concerns from unfinished transport links to doping controversies.

On a visit to London during which he also met the culture secretary, John Whittingdale, and the mayor, Sadiq Khan, Picciani also promised a crucial extension to the metro would open “a couple of days before the opening ceremony”, that Brazil would finish in the top 10 in the medal table and there would be a last-minute surge in demand for tickets.

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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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Nobody is completely sure which mosquito spreads Zika in Brazil

Will Carless – Global Post, 04/06/2016

The World Health Organization’s fact sheet on the Zika virus contains a wealth of useful information about the mysterious disease that has spread across the Americas and is blamed for a surge in birth defects in Brazil.

 

One of its leading facts may sound pretty benign: Zika is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, mainly the Aedes aegypti species in tropical countries like this one.

There’s only one problem: It’s not actually a “fact” that this particular mosquito spreads Zika in Brazil.

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Zika virus command center leads biggest military operation in Brazil’s history

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 03/30/2016

It is the biggest military mobilisation in Brazil’s history: 220,000 army, navy and air force personnel have been called into action, as well as 315,000 public officials.

Rapid reaction units have been deployed to take the fight across the country. Local authorities are stockpiling munitions and supplies. Scientists have been enlisted to devise new weapons of mass destruction with which to defend the motherland.

But the enemy is not a geopolitical rival or a militant group: it is the tiny Aedes aegypti mosquito which is believed to be responsible for the spread of the Zika virus.

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Logistics cause delays on first day of Brazil Zika study

Associated Press – New York Times, 02/23/2016

JOAO PESSOA, Brazil — U.S. and Brazilian health workers seeking to determine if the Zika virus is causing a surge in birth defects ran into the chaotic reality of northeastern Brazil on their study’s first day Tuesday. Traffic and logistical problems shredded their schedule, delaying or preventing meetings with mothers and babies.

The plan conceived in the air-conditioned halls of Brazil’s Health Ministry and the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had seemed simple:

Eight teams of “disease detectives” are looking to enroll about 100 mothers of babies with microcephaly, a rare defect that causes newborns to have unusually small heads and damaged brains. They also want to sign up two to three times as many mothers of babies without the birth defect, born in the same area at around the same time.

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CDC arrives in Brazil to investigate Zika outbreak

Rob Stein – NPR, 02/22/2016

A team of U.S. government disease detectives Monday launched an eagerly anticipated research project in Brazil designed to determine whether the Zika virus is really causing a surge of serious birth defects.

A 16-member team of epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began training dozens of Brazilian counterparts in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, in preparation to begin work on Tuesday. The researchers will gather data on hundreds of Brazilian women and their children.

“Having the data at this point in time are very critically important for understanding the impact Zika might be having in the future and as it spreads in the region,” says J. Erin Staples, a CDC medical officer leading the CDC team in Brazil.

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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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