from the OB/GYN-layoffs-loom dept.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a travel alert for 14 nations affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. One of those nations, El Salvador, is recommending against pregnancy due to a risk of birth defects suspected to be caused by the virus:
The entire region has erupted with concern over the virus, and each country has taken measures to combat its spread. Other Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Jamaica in the Caribbean, have recommended delaying pregnancies, though not for an entire two years.
The rest of Latin America has responded with different tactics, ranging from widespread fumigation efforts to directing citizens not to be bitten by the Aedes mosquito, which is known to carry yellow, chikungunya and dengue fevers.
So far, the hardest hit nation in the region has been Brazil, where more than a million cases have been confirmed, including nearly 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns that could be linked to Zika. Microcephaly is a rare, incurable condition in which an infant's head is abnormally small.
Brazil has announced its plans to control the Zika virus while continuing to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro:
Inspections of Olympic facilities will begin four months before the Games to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds. Daily sweeps will also take place during the Games. But fumigation would only be an option on a case-by-case basis because of concerns for the health of the athletes and visitors.
The Brazilian health ministry says it is also banking on the fact that the Games are taking place in the cooler, drier month of August when mosquitoes are far less evident and there are considerably fewer cases of mosquito-borne viruses.
The World Health Organization warns that Zika is likely to spread across all of the Americas.
A company that creates genetically-modified mosquitoes will open a new factory in Brazil as it expands operations:
Small-scale studies in parts of Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands suggest engineered sterile mosquitoes can reduce wild insect populations by more than 90% when released into the wild. Intrexon said the facility in Piraciciba, São Paulo, will be able to protect 300,000 people.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry three viruses - Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya.
The studies were carried out by the only company currently trialling GM insects, Oxitec, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Oxitec, which was spun out from the University of Oxford, was bought by US company Intrexon for $160m (£106m) in August last year. Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said: "As the principal source for the fastest growing vector-borne infection in the world in Dengue fever, as well as the increasingly challenging Zika virus, controlling the Aedes aegypti population provides the best defence against these serious diseases for which there are no cures."
Also at The Guardian.
Book your flights and hotels as deals become available:
Thailand has quarantined 32 people as it seeks to prevent the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) after a second case of the virus was detected on Friday, a health ministry official said on Monday.
The virus was found in a 71-year-old Omani man traveling to Bangkok. His son, taxi drivers, hotel staff and passengers on the same plane are among those quarantined for two weeks, Amnuay Gajeena, director-general of Thailand's Disease Control Department, told reporters. Another eight have been identified and will also be quarantined, he said.
[...] Thailand's tourism industry would not be affected by the latest MERS case, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters. "We think we have the situation under control," she said. "We're confident this will not affect tourism in Thailand." Tourism accounts for 10 percent of GDP, and Thailand expects a record number of international visitors in 2016 - some 32 million, up from 29.88 million in 2015.
The World Health Organization said in its latest update on Jan. 7 it has been notified of 1,626 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS from 26 countries, and at least 586 related deaths. MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Previously: MERS Outbreak and Quarantines in South Korea
The World Health Organization announced Thursday that it would convene an emergency meeting to try to find ways to stop the transmission of the Zika virus — which officials said is "spreading explosively" across the Americas.
"The level of alarm is extremely high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly, " Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, said in a briefing to member countries in Geneva.
Chan said that the situation today is dramatically different than last year because of the surge in the number of cases and the severity of the symptoms and that "the level of alarm is extremely high."
Health officials said the number of countries impacted by mosquitoes that are spreading the virus locally is now up to 23. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the United States now has 31 laboratory confirmed cases in 11 states and the District of Columbia. All are travel-related, the CDC's Lyle Petersen said, and "this number is increasing rapidly." The country also has 20 additional cases because of local transmission in U.S. territories — 19 in Puerto Rico and one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Alternately at The Guardian. Some believe that South American countries will loosen abortion restrictions in response to the virus. For example, Brazil's Supreme Federal Court ruled in 2012 that abortion was legal in cases when a fetus develops anencephaly (no brain). The Zika virus in Brazil is being linked to a 20x increase in microcephaly (abnormally small brain) prevalence, which is not always fatal.
New research has found that over 2 billion people live in parts of the world where the Zika virus can spread via mosquitoes:
More than two billion people live in parts of the world where the Zika virus can spread, detailed maps published in the journal eLife show. The Zika virus, which is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, triggered a global health emergency this year. Last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the virus causes severe birth defects.
The latest research showed mapping Zika was more complex than simply defining where the mosquito can survive. One of the researchers, Dr Oliver Brady from the University of Oxford, told the BBC: "These are the first maps to come out that really use the data we have for Zika - earlier maps were based on Zika being like dengue or chikungunya. "We are the first to add the very precise geographic and environmental conditions data we have on Zika." By learning where Zika could thrive the researchers could then predict where else may be affected. The researchers confirmed that large areas of South America, the focus of the current outbreak, are susceptible.
To put that in perspective, a recent estimate states: "The world population (the total number of living humans on Earth) was 7.349 billion as of July 1, 2015 according to the medium fertility estimate by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. "
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