Will Rio Be Ready? Brazil Stumbles to Olympics Finish Line

Paulo Sotero, Paulo Prada, Jules Boykoff and Alan Abrahamson – KCRW/NPR, 07/06/2016

One month to go until the Olympic Games and Brazil is in a state of emergency. But it’s not just political and economic crises — athletes have been mugged at gunpoint, venues are unfinished or perhaps unsafe, the Olympics mascot was shot dead… Can it get any worse?

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Brazil’s Senate Begins Debate on Ousting Dilma Rousseff After Months of Turmoil

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/11/2016

BRASÍLIA — After months of tirades, secret maneuvering and legal appeals,Brazil’s Senate began debating on Wednesday whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, suspend her from office and put her on trial.

The debate, followed by a vote as early as Wednesday evening, is a watershed in the power struggle consuming Brazil, a country that experienced a rare stretch of stability over the last two decades as it strengthened its economy and achieved greater prominence on the world stage.

Now, those gains are unraveling. Brazil is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, huge corruption cases across the political spectrum and a bitter feud among its scandal-plagued leaders — just months before the world heads to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics.

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Eradication of Zika-Spreading Mosquito in Brazil Unlikely

Peter Prengaman, Mauricio Savarese – AP, 04/19/2016

In the 1940s and 1950s, Brazilian authorities made such a ferocious assault on Aedes aegypti – the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus – that it was eradicated from Latin America’s largest country by 1958.

But Aedes aegypti returned, and now Brazil has launched another offensive against the pest, employing hundreds of thousands of troops to fumigate and educate people about how to eliminate its habitats. The assault is part of President Dilma Rousseff’s “war” on the Zika virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can cause devastating birth defects.

But eradication experts say there is little chance Brazil can come anywhere near stamping out the pest like it did a half century ago. The world is different, with globalization bringing more travelers and trade across borders. And Brazil is different; its resources are limited as the country suffers through its worst recession in decades and its president is focused on battling impeachment for allegedly breaking fiscal rules in managing government funds.

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How A Town In Brazil Reportedly Rid Itself Of The Zika Mosquito

Ana Beatriz Rosa, Anna Almendrala – The Huffington Post, 02/29/2016

Brazil has recently ramped up its fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, the latter a virus that has been linked to birth defects. Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Castro announced in January that the country would send 200,000 members of the armed forces to help in mosquito eradication, and cities across the country have intensified strategies to combat the pest.

But a few communities in Brazil are already leading the way when it comes to eliminating the disease-carrying mosquito from their neighborhoods. One of these is the small town of Água Branca, home to 16,000 people in the state of Piauí.

Compared to other similarly sized rural towns in Brazil, Água Branca should have a mosquito problem. But in 2013, when Zika virus wasn’t even an issue, the town launched a community initiative to address rising dengue fever rates. The partnership between municipal health authorities and residents focused on eliminating mosquito hotspots, and as a result, Água Branca has reportedly been mosquito-free for three years.

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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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Three D.C. residents, including pregnant woman, have the Zika virus

Aaron C. Davis, Julie Zauzmer – Washington Post, 02/04/2016

Three people in the District of Columbia, including a pregnant woman, have contracted the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

All three caught the virus while traveling in Latin American countries, which have been most affected by the outbreak that the World Health Organization is calling a global health emergency.

The WHO has said that the virus is “strongly suspected” to cause the birth defect microencephaly, in which babies are born with small heads and may suffer debilitating disabilities.

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After criticism, Brazil transferring Zika samples to US

Raphael Satter, Maria Cheng – ABC News, 02/05/2016

Brazilian officials say they’re sending a set of samples related to the Zika outbreak to the United States, a move which follows complaints that the country was hoarding disease data and biological material.

The announcement came hours after The Associated Press revealed that international health officials were frustrated at Brazil’s refusal to share enough viral samples and other information to answer the most worrying question about the outbreak: Whether the disease is truly causing a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads.

U.S. and U.N. officials told AP that Brazil probably shared fewer than 20 samples when experts say hundreds or thousands of samples are needed to track the virus’ evolution and develop accurate diagnostics and effective drugs and vaccines. Many countries’ national laboratories are relying on older strains from outbreaks in the Pacific and Africa, the AP found.

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Questioning an approach to Zika control: delaying pregnancy

Donald G. McNeil Jr. – New York Times, 02/05/2016

Health officials in several countries stricken by the Zika virus have given their female citizens an unprecedented warning: “Don’t get pregnant.”

The advice has been greeted in many quarters with a mixture of shock and derision. Medical historians said they had never heard the like. Advocates for women mocked it as unrealistic, disconnected from the difficult lives of women in a part of the world where contraception can be hard to obtain and abortion is often illegal.

Yet a growing number of infectious disease experts say that delaying pregnancy could work — and may be the most effective way to break the back of this global epidemic.

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