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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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 epidemic uncovers Brazil’s hidden birth-defect problem

Alex Cuadros – Washington Post, 03/01/2016

As researchers race to establish a link between the Zika virus and a birth defect known as microcephaly, one of their biggest obstacles is the lack of reliable health data in Brazil, where the epidemic broke out there last year.

Since October, Brazil’s Health Ministry has received reports of about 5,600 suspected cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Many cases have been thrown out, and many more are still being investigated, but given that the country previously reported 150 such cases per year, the number would still seem to indicate a massive jump.

Many doctors, though, say that the jump is largely illusory — based on massive underreporting of microcephaly and other birth defects in Brazil. What’s more, this poor record-keeping reflects much larger public health problems here: poor prenatal care and woefully inadequate services for children with disabilities. Until the Zika epidemic, these issues were mostly swept under the rug.

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Pictures capture daily battle against Zika mosquitoes

Becky Little,  Tomás Munita- National Geographic, 02/25/2016

How do you stop disease-carrying mosquitoes from multiplying? That’s the question plaguing the Brazilian government, which has been sending army soldiers door to door on a mission to fight Zika—the virus suspected of causing microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers.

 

“They are giving leaflets saying you have to keep your backyard clean from rubbish,” says photographer Tomás Munita, who has been documenting Recife, a northeastern state capital with a population of 3.7 million. Any stray items left outside, even a bottle cap, can collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for the Aedes aegyptimosquitoes that are thought to be the main carriers of Zika.

But in Brazil’s favelas, or poor neighborhoods, Munita says it’s hard to imagine that the government’s information campaign will have much effect.

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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WHO: $56 needed million to fight Zika outbreak in coming months

Brady Dennis – The Washington Post, 02/17/2016

The World Health Organization says it will take $56 million to kickstart a coordinated international response to the Zika virus outbreak racing through much of the Americas, and the WHO plans to tap a newly created emergency contingency fund to pay for the initial efforts.

In a lengthy action plan published Tuesday,  the organization said a hefty chunk of the money will go toward disease surveillance, which will include tracking new Zika cases and the suspected birth defects and rare autoimmune syndrome that scientists suspect are linked to the mosquito-borne virus. More funding will be used to help provide counseling to pregnant women, as well as to help communities with mosquito-control programs. Still more funds will go toward research to speed the development of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests, as well as to study whether and how Zika is causing serious conditions such as microcephaly.

More than half the money will be spread among a collection of international partners, including non-governmental organizations and research institutions such as Unicef, AmeriCares, Save the Children, the International Medical Corps and the University of Texas Medical Branch. The remaining funds will be disbursed within the WHO and its regional offices in the Americas — known as the Pan American Health Organization — to help carry out the plan through June. Earlier this month, the organization declared the Zika outbreak and the accompanying spike in congenital brain abnormalities in newborns to be a public health emergency of international concern.

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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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In Brazil, are the poor more likely to contract zika?

Sam Cowie – Aljazeera, 02/12/2016

In Ibura, a poor neighbourhood in Recife, north eastern Brazil, Gleyse Kelly, 27, breastfeeds her three-month-old daughter, Giovanna.

“I hope that she will be able to walk, talk and go on to study,” Gleyse says.

Giovanna has microcephaly, a condition which causes babies to be born with smaller than average heads and suffer varying degrees of brain damage, leading to developmental problems and severe learning difficulties. Some die shortly after birth.

Experts say that it is very likely that Giovanna will require full-time care for the rest of her life, putting enormous pressure on Gleyse, a mother of four who earns only $250 a month working as a toll booth attendant, and who receives $25 in government child benefits. Her husband is unemployed.

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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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