Category Archives: Latin America

Zika outbreak spreads, with high anxiety in Asia


We begin with the latest map, issued Friday by the  Pan American Health Organization showing the countries of Latin America where Zika virus has been contracted locally:

BLOG Zika regional map

Next, from euronews, a report on the latest news from the nation at the epicenter of the crisis:

Brazil in crisis as Zika fears mount

Program notes:

In exactly six months, the summer Olympic Games will open in Rio de Janeiro. Even though some 500 millions de dollars have been axed to balance the budget, the installations are between 80 and 90 percent complete.

But there are other dangers, beyond financial, are threatening the first South American city to host the event.

Since May last year the Zika epidemic has spread from Brazil’s north-east bringing fear in almost equal measure because of the number of microcephaly cases.

From RT, more news from Brazil:

Olympic organizers deny Games under threat due to Zika virus

Brazil’s Sports Minister George Hilton issued a statement on Thursday in which he criticized the press for suggesting South America’s first-ever Olympics may be called off.

UPDATE: And there’s reason for that anxiety, as the Independent reports:

Zika: Pregnant British holidaymakers with bookings to Caribbean and US face uncertainty amid risk of virus spreading

Airlines and holiday companies allowing pregnant women to switch destinations, but only if they are booked to one of the affected countries

From the San Francisco Chronicle, would-be U.S. travelers are having second thoughts:

Zika fears spur rash of calls to clinics about travel safety

Medical experts in the Bay Area say they’ve been fielding calls from residents inquiring about the safety of traveling to countries primarily in South and Central America and the Caribbean, where Zika is widespread.

VOA News covers the latest warning from the Centers for Disease Control:

New Warning From CDC on Zika Virus Transmission

Program notes:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new warning for men about transmitting the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean, creating a crisis for pregnant women. VOA’s Carol Pearson reports very little is actually known about the virus.

More from Agence France Presse:

US urges condoms or abstinence to avoid Zika virus

US health authorities on Friday urged people to use condoms or refrain from sex if they live in or have travelled to areas where the Zika virus is circulating

From Reuters, troubling news from another country:

More than 3,100 pregnant women in Colombia have Zika virus: government

 More than 3,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday, as the disease continues its rapid spread across the Americas.

UPDATE: The latest from Colombia via teleSUR English:

First Abortion in Colombia Possibly as Result of Zika

A woman struggled to find a doctor willing to provide an abortion after it was discovered her fetus suffered from microcephaly

Channel NewsAsia covers Aussie angst:

Australia to step up Zika testing as two new cases reported

Australia will intensify testing for the Zika virus in Queensland state where Aedes mosquitoes are found, authorities said on Saturday, adding that two new cases among local residents were the result of travel to affected countries.

Kiwi worries from the New Zealand Herald:

Kiwi teen may have Zika virus after holiday

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that is suspected of causing serious birth defects in unborn babies. The World Health Organisation has declared the latest outbreak a public health emergency and there have been 10 confirmed cases – all contracted overseas – in New Zealand this year.

And here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control maps states where Zika cases have been reported:

Laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases reported to ArboNET by state or territory — United States, 2015–2016 [as of February 3, 2016]

Laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases reported to ArboNET by state or territory — United States, 2015–2016 [as of February 3, 2016]

Next, Zika concerns in Arkansas, via KATV ABC 7 in Little Rock:

CDC testing two new possible Zika cases from Arkansas

  • The Arkansas Department of Health reports it has sent two additional samples to the Centers for Disease Control to test for the Zika virus.
  • One case of the Zika virus has already been confirmed in Arkansas.
  • In Florida, a fifth county has been added the state of emergency list after 12 confirmed cases.

On to Illinois with ABC7 Chicago:

Zika virus cases expected to rise in IL after spring break

Three cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Illinois, and doctors expect more as people travel to the Caribbean on spring break.

WPDH radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, covers cases in the Empire State:

Breaking: Another Zika Virus Case Discovered in Hudson Valley

The Zika Virus was reported in another Hudson Valley individual today. This brings the total number of New Yorkers with the virus up to 11, with two of them right here in our area.

Finally, from CCTV English, another development:

Indian firm developing two possible Zika vaccines

The Empire Files: Bloodshed on the border


In the second part [first part here] of “The Empire’s Border,” her report on the bloody politics of the United States’ southern border, The Empire Files‘ Abby Martin examines the origins of that boundary line in bloody conflict, America’s first imperial war against another American nation state.

Her focus then shifts to the first border wall, erected after a fierce street battle in the border town of Nogales, Arizona/Juarez, Mexico 98 years ago.

Adding immensely to the border tensions was the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement [and do watch Hillary’s spouse preaching its virtues on signing the treaty into law].

Then came 9/11, and the subsequent paranoia-enabled national security spending binge, in which fears of boundary leakage proved centers of immense profits and bureaucratic binging. . .

Increased deaths became inevitable, especially given a media fueled campaign of paranoia direction against brown-skinned people.

Well, we’ll leave the rest for you.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: The Empire’s Border Part II – A Hidden War

Program notes:

In the second installment of this two-part episode, Abby Martin continues her investigation of the hidden war on the U.S.-Mexico border, looking at the root causes of the epidemic of migrant deaths. The Empire Files documents an inflated, paramilitary Border Patrol, the devastating impacts of NAFTA, how the U.S. Empire benefits from immigrant labor and what can change the equation.

Featuring interviews with Todd Miller, author of ‘Border Patrol Nation’, and Araceli Rodriguez, mother of Jose Antonio, a 16-year-old boy murdered by Border Patrol.

Zika update: Spread, sex, abortions, and more


We begin with a video report from CCTV America:

Latin America Steps Up Efforts To Fight Zika

Program notes:

With growing fear surrounding the spread of the Zika virus, “Americas Now” brings together CCTV correspondent’s from across Latin America to report on how South American countries are being affected by the epidemic.They also tell us what’s being done to stop the transmission of the disease and what to expect next.“Americas Now” has reports from Stephen Gibbs in Caracas, Venezuela; Joel Richards in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Michelle Begue in Bogota, Colombia; Michael Voss in Havana, Cuba; Paulo Cabral in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Grace Gonzalez in Managua, Nicaragua; Dan Collyns in Lima, Peru.The Zika virus is transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. The virus originated in Uganda in 1947. Recently, Latin America has experienced a major outbreak.

The disease hits another country, from El País:

First Spanish Zika virus case involving pregnant woman diagnosed

The infected patient, who lives in Catalonia, contracted disease on visit to Colombia

Outbreak News Today covers an escalation:

Zika emergency declared in Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican government declared a public health emergency due to the Zika virus after Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order Friday, according to a Diario de Puerto Rico report

Again from Outbreak News Today, advice is given:

Samoa added to Zika travel advisory

The South Pacific island of Samoa is one of several countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added to their interim travel guidance related to Zika virus Friday.

From the World Health Organization, another island hit:

Zika virus infection – United States of America – United States Virgin Islands

On 25 January 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for the United States of America notified PAHO/WHO of the first laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in St. Croix, one of the three main islands in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

And from RT America, preparing for the inevitable:

Florida prepares for statewide emergency over Zika Virus

Program notes:

Health officials in Florida have declared a state of emergency in four of the state’s counties over the Zika Virus outbreak, asking people to refrain from having unprotected sex or suggesting to abstain altogether. RT’s Marina Portnaya reports from Miami and takes a look at the government’s response to the crisis.

From Reuters, bodily fluids:

Brazil finds Zika in saliva, urine; expert warns against kissing

Scientists identified the Zika virus in the saliva and urine of two infected patients, a top Brazilian biomedical research institution said on Friday, prompting its president to urge pregnant women not to kiss strangers just as local carnival celebrations begin.

Sky News covers mortality:

Zika Kills Three As Carnival Revellers Warned

Three people have died in Colombia after contracting the Zika virus, which is spreading across South America and has emerged in Europe and the US.

More from the Associated Press:

In Brazil, pregnant women urged to be cautious with a kiss

In a sign of mounting global concern over the Zika virus, health officials on Friday warned pregnant women to think twice about the lips they kiss and called on men to use condoms with pregnant partners if they have visited countries where the virus is present

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control here in the U.S. have issued new guidelines for sexual conduct to visitors to Zikaland:

New recommendations for pregnant women, and men with pregnant sex partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Pregnant women and their male sex partners should discuss the male partner’s potential exposures and history of Zika-like illness with the pregnant woman’s health care provider (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/). Providers should consult CDC’s guidelines for evaluation and testing of pregnant women.
  • Men with a pregnant sex partner who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission and their pregnant sex partners should consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) or abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy. Consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of sexual transmission of many infections, including those caused by other viruses.

New recommendations for non-pregnant women, and men with non-pregnant sexual partners who live in or have traveled to Zika-affected areas:

  • Couples in which a man resides in or has traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who are concerned about sexual transmission of Zika virus may consider using condoms consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sexual activity.
  • Couples may consider several factors when making this complex and personal decision to abstain or use condoms:
    1. Zika virus illness is usually mild. An estimated 4 out of 5 people infected never have symptoms; when symptoms occur they may last from several days to one week.
    2. The risk of Zika infection depends on how long and how much a person has been exposed to infected mosquitoes, and the steps taken to prevent mosquito bites while in an affected area.
  • The science is not clear on how long the risk should be avoided. Research is now underway to answer this question as soon as possible. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may consider testing in discussion with your health care provider.

El País covers concerns:

Zika virus could trigger illegal abortions spike, experts fear

Lack of contraception and strict laws may force women to seek unsafe procedures

From Al Jazeera America, a response:

UN calls for Zika-hit countries to loosen abortion restrictions

UN asks how countries can ask women to avoid pregnancies but not offer ways to end them; Puerto Rico declares emergency

More from teleSUR:

Men: No Sex to Avoid Spread of Zika!

Up until now, guidelines for avoiding the virus have focused on women

Another concern from CBC Radio:

Concerns over clinical trials with pregnant women could delay a Zika vaccine

Dr. Peter Hotez, one of the world’s leading experts on the Zika virus and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine Baylor College of Medicine, says safety concerns for drug tests on pregnant women will prolong the search for Zika vaccine. He estimates it is possible a vaccine could be created in about two years but not in time to be used for this round of infection.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

French researcher says Zika link to Guillain-Barré Syndrome is ‘almost certain’

  • The correlation between paralysis and the Zika virus was first seen in French Polynesia two years ago
  • Didier Musso wrote then that Zika appeared responsible for a 20-fold increase in the condition
  • Microcephaly, now tied to Zika, was not noted in the 2013 outbreak

From Al Jazeera America, a class-based cause for concern:

In Brazil, stigma and poor care afflict microcephaly sufferers

Costs of caring for children with the condition, which is linked to the Zika virus, are often prohibitive

Headline of the day III: Mexico’s reign of terror


From teleSUR English:

Over 700 Dead in 100 Days in Guerrero is ‘Normal’ Says Governor

About 719 murders have been registered in the first 100 days since Hector Astudillo Flores took over as governor of the troubled Mexican state of Guerrero, according to official reports, equalling an average of more than seven executions a day. 

Cancer: Another reason to loathe the TPP


The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational Pacific Rim trading pact, negotiated in secret under the sway of corporate lobbyists and signed today in New Zealand, must be approved by Congress in order to take effect.

Hillary Clinton loves it, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren  don’t.

There are many reasons to loathe the TPP, including its secret tribunal capable of fining nations huge sums for enacting environmental, public health, and other barriers to protect citizens from unalloyed corporate rapacity.

Now comes another good reason, cancer.

From RT’s The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann:

What Today’s TPP Signing Means

Program notes:

Melinda St. Louis, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch & Zahara Heckscher, Writer/Educator/Social Justice Advocate join Thom. Representatives from 12 countries are gathering in the world’s most remote capital to finally sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What effect will this have on the effort to block the deal here in the US?

Headlines of the day: Zika crisis news updates


First, a crisis meeting called for Tuesday, via teleSUR:

Latin American Health Ministers Will Meet About Zika Virus

Health ministers across the region will meet to share knowledge and research about the virus, for which no previous information exists

Second, and from teleSUR again, an emergency declared:

Honduras Declares State of Emergency Over Zika Virus

The Honduran government declared a state of emergency Monday due to the Zika virus after the Health Ministry reported at least 3,700 people infected nationwide

And from the Associated Press:

The Latest: Female airline crew can request no Brazil flight

Swiss International Air Lines says female flight attendants and pilots won’t be required to fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil, if they don’t want to because of the Zika virus outbreak

And one final update, via Reuters:

U.N. ready to irradiate mosquito sperm to combat Zika virus

A new method to render male mosquitoes infertile by nuclear radiation could help reduce populations of the insect carrying the Zika virus that is linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, the U.N. atomic agency said on Tuesday

UPDATE: From BBC News, the first case of Zika contracted within the continental U.S. has been announced by the Centers for Disease Control:

Zika virus infection ‘through sex’ reported in US

A rare case of the Zika virus being transmitted through sex, not a mosquito bite, has been reported in the US.

WHO Declares Zika crisis a health emergency


Finally, action.

From the World Health Organization:

WHO statement on the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) Emergency Committee on Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations

WHO statement
1 February 2016

The first meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005) regarding clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders in some areas affected by Zika virus was held by teleconference on 1 February 2016, from 13:10 to 16:55 Central European Time.

The WHO Secretariat briefed the Committee on the clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) that have been temporally associated with Zika virus transmission in some settings. The Committee was provided with additional data on the current understanding of the history of Zika virus, its spread, clinical presentation and epidemiology.

The following States Parties provided information on a potential association between microcephaly and/or neurological disorders and Zika virus disease: Brazil, France, United States of America, and El Salvador.

The Committee advised that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The Committee provided the following advice to the Director-General for her consideration to address the PHEIC (clusters of microcephaly and neurologic disorders) and their possible association with Zika virus, in accordance with IHR (2005).

Microcephaly and neurologic disorders

  • Surveillance for microcephaly and GBS should be standardized and enhanced, particularly in areas of known Zika virus transmission and areas at risk of such transmission.
  • Research into the etiology of new clusters of microcephaly and neurologic disorders should be intensified to determine whether there is a causative link to Zika virus and/or other factors or co-factors.

As these clusters have occurred in areas newly infected with Zika virus, and in keeping with good public health practice and the absence of another explanation for these clusters, the Committee highlights the importance of aggressive measures to reduce infection with Zika virus, particularly among pregnant women and women of childbearing age.

As a precautionary measure, the Committee made the following additional recommendations:

Zika virus transmission

  • Surveillance for Zika virus infection should be enhanced, with the dissemination of standard case definitions and diagnostics to at-risk areas.
  • The development of new diagnostics for Zika virus infection should be prioritized to facilitate surveillance and control measures.
  • Risk communications should be enhanced in countries with Zika virus transmission to address population concerns, enhance community engagement, improve reporting, and ensure application of vector control and personal protective measures.
  • Vector control measures and appropriate personal protective measures should be aggressively promoted and implemented to reduce the risk of exposure to Zika virus.
  • Attention should be given to ensuring women of childbearing age and particularly pregnant women have the necessary information and materials to reduce risk of exposure.
  • Pregnant women who have been exposed to Zika virus should be counselled and followed for birth outcomes based on the best available information and national practice and policies.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading