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WHO - Microcephaly / Zika virus

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Zika - News

Microcephaly Cases in Brazil Predate Zika Virus Outbreak, Study Says

Zika and microcephaly questions

Cases may have been under-reported before the arrival of the virus

CLICK HERE - Microcephaly in northeastern Brazil: a review of 16 208 births between 2012 and 2015 (11 page .PDF file)

cbc.ca - February 10, 2016

Large numbers of babies with borderline normal head sizes were born in Brazil as far back as 2012, two years before the Zika virus is thought to have entered the country, say researchers searching for answers to urgent questions.

Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Sandra Mattos had been collecting data on 100,000 newborns in the Brazilian state of Paraiba as part of her work studying and treating congenital heart disease.

The microcephaly fears linked to the Zika virus drove her team to check back into hospital records for head circumferences of more than 1,600 babies born in the state in the last four years.

"We were very, very surprised," Mattos said. Babies with mild microcephaly were present in the population dating back to at least 2012.



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Zika Virus: Link with Two Disorders Expected to Be Confirmed Within Weeks


WHO’s assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny at news briefing in Geneva on Friday. Photograph: Pierre Albouy/Reuters

Vaccines at least 18 months off, WHO says, as scientists work to determine if virus causes microcephaly and Guillain-Barré

theguardian.com - February 12, 2016

The World Health Organisation expects the suspected link between the Zika virus and two neurological disorders, microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults, to be established within weeks, a senior official has said.

Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s assistant director general, told a news briefing on Friday: “We have a few more weeks to be sure to demonstrate causality, but the link between Zika and Guillain-Barré is highly probable.”

She said it would take at least 18 months to start clinical trials of potential vaccines on humans, adding: “Two vaccine candidates seem to be more advanced: a DNA vaccine from the US National Institutes of Health; and an inactivated product from Bharat Biotech, in India.”


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Argentine & Brazilian Doctors Suspect Mosquito Insecticide as Cause of Microcephaly


Since 2014, the insecticide Pyriproxyfen has been used to kill mosquitos in water tanks in Brazil. Water tank in Bahia state, northeast Brazil. Photo: Francois Le Minh via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

gmwatch.org - by Claire Robinson - February 10, 2016

A report from the Argentine doctors’ organisation, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns,[1] challenges the theory that the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil is the cause of the increase in the birth defect microcephaly among newborns.  

The increase in this birth defect, in which the baby is born with an abnormally small head and often has brain damage, was quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health. However, according to the Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, the Ministry failed to recognise that in the area where most sick people live, a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was introduced into the drinking water supply in 2014. This poison, Pyriproxyfen, is used in a State-controlled programme aimed at eradicating disease-carrying mosquitoes. . . .

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Federal Specialist to Inspect Elevated Radiation at Indian Point


Indian Point Nuclear power plant located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, New York  Photo: John Mottern / AFP

nytimes.com - by Liam Stack - February 7, 2016

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending a radiation-protection specialist to New York this week to inspect the Indian Point nuclear power plant after state officials found evidence of a surge in radiation levels in groundwater there, a spokesman for the federal agency said on Sunday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the findings of increased radiation at the plant on Saturday, saying that “alarming levels” of radioactivity caused by tritium contamination had been detected in three of the 40 monitoring wells. At one of the wells, Mr. Cuomo said, the level of radiation had jumped 65,000 percent.




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Study Finds Zika Virus in Fetal Brain, a Clue in Outbreak


abcnews.go.com - by Lauran Neergaard - February 10, 2016

CLICK HERE - NEJM - STUDY - Zika Virus Associated with Microcephaly

CLICK HERE - NEJM - EDITORIAL - Zika Virus and Microcephaly

New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain emerged Wednesday as U.S. health officials say mosquito eradication here and abroad is key to protect pregnant women until they can develop a vaccine.

European researchers uncovered an extremely abnormal brain — not only a fraction of the proper size but lacking the usual crinkly neural folds — in a fetus whose mother suffered Zika symptoms at the end of the first trimester while she was living in Brazil. . . .

. . . Whether the mosquito-borne virus really causes microcephaly isn't yet proven, but Wednesday's report in The New England Journal of Medicine offers additional biologic clues.

"This fetus was really devastated," said Dr. Michael Greene of Massachusetts General Hospital who with colleagues from Harvard reviewed the findings in an accompanying editorial.

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Japan: Fukushima Clean-Up May Take Up To 40 years, Plant's Operator Says


A TEPCO employee walks in front of the No. 1 reactor building.  REUTERS/Toru Hanai

cnn.com - by Yoko Wakatsuki and Elaine Yu - February 11, 2016

Cleaning up Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which suffered catastrophic meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, may take up to 40 years.

The crippled nuclear reactor is now stable but the decommissioning process is making slow progress, says the plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, better known as TEPCO. . . .

. . . The biggest obstacle to closing down the plant permanently is removing all the melted nuclear fuel debris from three reactors, Ono told reporters after a press tour of the plant this week.

But TEPCO says it is in the dark about the current state of the debris.



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How to Survive a Global Disaster: a Handy Guide


Ubisoft’s role-playing shooter The Division wouldn’t be as much fun if players followed Nafeez Ahmed’s advice and stayed rural.  Photograph: Ubisoft

Whether it’s a natural disaster, bioterrorist attack or pandemic, experts reckon society as we know it will collapse within 13 days of a catastrophic event. So what do you do next?

theguardian.com - by Keith Stuart - February 10, 2016

On 22 June, 2001, Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, organised a war game like no other. The two researchers, working with an array of bodies such as the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, set out to simulate the effects of a biological attack on the US. The project was called Operation Dark Winter.

What they discovered was that the country was ill prepared to cope.



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Obama Asks for $1.8 Billion in Emergency Zika Funding


Anthony Fauci (R), director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease and Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speak with reporters during a press briefing about the Zika virus at the White House in Washington February 8, 2016  REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE

CLICK HERE - The White House - FACT SHEET: Preparing for and Responding to the Zika Virus at Home and Abroad

CLICK HERE - CDC Emergency Operations Center moves to highest level of activation for Zika response

reuters.com - by Roberta Rampton and Ben Hirschler - February 8, 2016

President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday, but he added there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus.

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Africa's Population Will Quadruple by 2100. What Does That Mean for its Cities?


Don't worry, African cities can cope. (AP Photo/Michael Duff)

New population figures paint a difficult picture for African cities. But there's more to the story than sheer numbers.

CLICK HERE - World population stabilization unlikely this century

CLICK HERE - State of African Cities 2014 , Re-imagining sustainable urban transitions

citylab.com - by Sam Sturgis - September 19, 2014

Numbers continue to stack up against the world’s poorest continent.

Global population levels are expected to increase from a current figure of 7.2 billion to nearly 11 billion by 2100, according to figures released . . . by the U.N. Previously, it was believed the world’s population would peak at around 9.5 billion. Nearly all of this new growth, meanwhile, will occur in Africa, which is expected to quadruple in size.

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Thousands of Civilians Reported Fleeing as Battle for Aleppo, Syria, Intensifies


Fierce fighting in Aleppo forces thousands to flee

Innocent civilians 'running for their lives' - A sense of panic among those fleeing

cnn.com by - Nick Paton Walsh and Don Melvin - February 5, 2016

(CNN) The battle for the devastated city of Aleppo -- once Syria's commercial heart -- is intensifying, and video has surfaced appearing to show thousands of civilians streaming out of the city. . . .

. . . But the latest video appears to show a sense of panic among the thousands of people streaming out of the city, fleeing for their lives -- bound, most probably, for the Turkish border, 60 miles (97 kilometers) to the north.

. . . And from there, they will push onward, perhaps, to Europe, which is experiencing one of the most significant waves of migration in recent decades.

A United Nations official, citing U.N. estimates made for emergency relief planning, told CNN that 321,000 civilians are thought to be in a rebel-held area east of Aleppo.



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WHO Says on Watch for Spread of Zika Virus to Africa, Asia


Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Reuters - by Stephanie Nebehay - February 2, 2016

GENEVA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The Zika virus linked to a microcephaly outbreak in Latin America could spread to Africa and Asia, and the World Health Organization will set up monitoring sites in the poorest countries with the highest birth rates, it said on Tuesday.

. . . ”Most important, we need to set up surveillance sites in low- and middle- income countries so that we can detect any change in the reporting patterns of microcephaly at an early stage," said Dr. Anthony Costello, WHO director for maternal, child and adolescent health.

A WHO global response unit "using all the lessons we've learned from the Ebola crisis" has been set up, he said. Some 20 to 30 'sentinel sites' for surveillance could be established worldwide, mainly in poor countries lacking robust health systems.



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Texas - First Confirmed Case of Sexually Transmitted Zika in U.S.


Dallas County Health and Human Services confirms its first case of Zika virus transmitted through sexual activity

CLICK HERE - Dallas County Health and Human Services - DCHHS Reports First Zika Virus Case in Dallas County Acquired Through Sexual Transmission (2 page .PDF file)

cnn.com - by Sandee LaMotte - February 2, 2016

The first case of locally acquired Zika in the continental United States has occurred through sexual transmission in Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The case, announced by Dallas County health officials, involved a patient who had sex with someone who had recently returned from Venezuela infected with the mosquito-borne virus.

In a statement to CNN, the CDC said it confirmed the test results showing Zika present in the blood of a "nontraveler in the continental United States." They stressed that there was no risk to a developing fetus in this instance.

Based on that, the CDC says it will soon provide guidance on sexual transmission, with a "focus on the male sexual partners of women who are or who may be pregnant."

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Zika Virus - WHO Declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern


WHO Director-General summarizes the outcome of the Emergency Committee on Zika

who.int - February 1, 2016

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

I convened an Emergency Committee, under the International Health Regulations, to gather advice on the severity of the health threat associated with the continuing spread of Zika virus disease in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Committee met today by teleconference.

In assessing the level of threat, the 18 experts and advisers looked in particular at the strong association, in time and place, between infection with the Zika virus and a rise in detected cases of congenital malformations and neurological complications.

The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better.

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