We begin with an origins story, via France 24:
Some scientists say that French authorities did not do enough to stop the spread of the Zika virus after a significant outbreak of the disease in French Polynesia in 2013-2014.
Dr. Didier Musso, who co-authored several papers about the dangers of Zika during the 2013-2014 outbreak, says that French authorities did not take findings by doctors in the French overseas territory seriously enough.
“In 2014 and 2013, the outbreak of Zika [in French Polynesia] went unnoticed in mainland France,” Musso told Le Point in February. “We managed on our own to isolate the virus, update the diagnostic tests, treat the patients and deal with the first severe medical complications, which no one expected.”
The current Zika epidemic in Latin America, where more than 1.5 million people have been infected, is thought to have been transmitted by international travelers from French Polynesia, a French overseas territory in the South Pacific made up of 118 islands, including Tahiti and Bora Bora.
A worrisome complication, via Time:
Two confirmed cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome linked to the Zika virus have been reported in the U.S., health authorities told TIME on Thursday.
The link between Zika and the birth defect microcephaly has received much attention. But health experts are also concerned about the link between the virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a condition where the immune system starts attacking the body’s nerves, which leads to weakness that can eventually result in temporary paralysis. In some cases, the disorder can interfere with breathing.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed to TIME that there have been two cases of GBS in the U.S. in people who also tested positive for Zika virus. “I think we can say that the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre looks strong and would not be at all surprising,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “We’ve seen similar postinfection complications after many different infections, including some that are quite similar to Zika. That is a link that’s getting stronger.”
From NPR, confirmation sought:
A team of U.S. government disease detectives launched an eagerly anticipated research project in Brazil on Monday 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.
U.S. News & World Report covers a U.S. appropriation sought:
President Barack Obama Monday sent lawmakers an official $1.9 billion request to combat the spread of the Zika virus in Latin America and the U.S.
He is also requesting flexibility to use a limited portion of leftover funds provided in 2014 to fight Ebola to take on Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects. Top House Republicans told the White House last week that the quickest way to get the money to fight Zika would be to use some of the approximate $2.7 billion that had been designated for the Ebola crisis but remains “unobligated.” Consideration of a stand-alone Zika request could prove cumbersome, especially in a combative election year.
Obama said Monday during a meeting with the nation’s governors that he hoped to work with them in guarding against the outbreak of the disease. Obama said the $1.9 billion he is requesting would include investments in research into new vaccines and better diagnostic tools, and more support for Puerto Rico and territories where there are confirmed cases.
From the Guardian, the Zika fight in Cuba:
President Raúl Castro has called on all Cubans to help eradicate the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus and ordered 9,000 army troops to help stave off the disease.
Cuba has yet to detect a case of Zika, but the outbreak is affecting large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
“It’s necessary for every single Cuban to take up this battle as a personal matter,” Castro wrote in a national message sounding the alarm over Zika, which is carried by mosquitoes that transmit the virus to humans. The virus is suspected of causing birth defects after infecting pregnant women.
Cubans should clean up potential environments for the Aedes genus of mosquitoes, said Castro, who also is general of the armed forces.
And in Brazil, drones are called to the fight, reports RT:
The drones have a very sharp eye. In San Paulo they perform low-altitude flyovers to detect signs of the pest in gardens, on terraces and other places where it is known to breed. They then fumigate the colonies, Xinhua reports.
Brazil has almost met its target of inspecting 60 million residences across the country. This adds to other efforts, such as massive armed forced deployment, to stamp out the infection. Some 40 percent of targeted locations have already been dealt with.
The idea of using the drones was born out of necessity. Many households were difficult to get into – some did not allow inspectors in, others simply had no one inside at the time. Drones greatly improve access without having to disturb residents.
Aside from drones and manpower, the government is also looking at newer and quicker means of diagnosing the virus, Sao Paulo Health Secretary Alexandra Padilha said.
And for an idea of Zika’s economic impacts even where it hasn’t appeared, consider this from the Grenada Broadcasting Network:
Zika and Tourism
As Grenada and the rest of the eastern Caribbean continue to grapple with the introduction of a new virus in our region, there is a sense of uneasiness with in the tourism sector, as stakeholders worry that it can negatively affect the industry.
On Saturday morning GBN’s Delroy Louison took our cameras to the streets of St. George and spoke to the vendors about their take on the possibility of Zika entering our shores.
Tech Times covers Canadian anxieties put to the test:
A group of insect scientists in Canada are at the forefront of a new study that will test whether mosquito native to the country can potentially become carriers of the Zika virus, as well as the chances of the native mosquitoes transmitting the virus to locals.
Brock University, which is the only academic institution in Canada that contains a Level 3 containment lab with an insectary, received a shipment of the mosquito-borne virus from the National Microbiology Laboratory this week.
Incidentally, the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is also the only other facility in the country with a similar high-security capacity where such research can be conducted safely.
And there’s more, including a Rolling Stone spousal departure, domestic countermeasures, theocratic opportunism, and a malicious virus piggybacking, after the jump. . . Continue reading