The Rendon Group
Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.
Alarm Grows over Zika Virus
Pediatrician Danielle Cruz checks up on 9-week-old Luhandra, born with Zika-related microcephaly, a condition of abnormal brain development (Washington Post)
This week’s snapshot focuses on the global Zika outbreak. The Zika virus has created a health crisis in a number of Latin American countries, as well as cases in Britain and the United States. The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to abnormal brain development called microcephaly in newborns. A number of affected countries have recommended that women delay plans to become pregnant.
News summary of events during the week of 18JAN16 – 24JAN16
18JAN: Jamaica’s Health Minister Horace Dalley advised women to delay plans to become pregnant for the next six to 12 months due to the Zika virus. (AP)
19JAN: Synthetic biology company Oxitec said a genetically modified mosquito it developed has helped reduce the proliferation of mosquitoes spreading Zika and other dangerous viruses in Brazil. (Reuters)
20JAN: Figures released by Brazil’s Health Ministry show that in the week ending with 16JAN there were 363 new suspected cases of Zika-related microcephaly, compared with 356 in the week that ended with 09JAN. (WSJ)
20JAN: Three cases of Zika virus, Florida’s first, were recorded in people who had recently traveled in Latin America. (AFP)
21JAN: Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the US is pushing to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus. (TIME)
22JAN: NY state health officials said that three people, tested positive for Zika. (NYT)
22JAN: The US Virgin Islands reported its first case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. (AP)
22JAN: US health authorities expanded a travel warning for pregnant women to avoid 22 places in Latin America and the Caribbean due to the Zika virus. (AFP)
23JAN: The Dominican Republic announced that the Zika virus has spread to that country after 10 people tested positive for the disease. (EFE)
23JAN: Authorities announced three British travellers who traveled to south and central America and returned to Britain have been diagnosed with the Zika virus. (Guardian)
23JAN: Scientists are looking into why the rise of the mosquito-borne Zika virus seems to correspond with a spike in cases of potentially-fatal Guillain-Barré. (AP)
24JAN: Rio de Janeiro announced it was stepping up measures to eradicate mosquitoes at Olympic venues. (AFP)
25JAN: The WHO said the mosquito-borne Zika virus is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile. (Reuters)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the Zika virus
@dbarthjones – Daniel Barth-Jones, PHD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
@DrFriedenCDC – Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
@maiamajumder – Maia Majumder, MPH, Engineering Systems SM/PhD student at MIT and computational epidemiology research fellow at HealthMap
@PeterHotez – Dr. Peter J. Hotez, MD, PHD, Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine, US Science Envoy
@picardonhealth – André Picard, Health columnist at The Globe and Mail
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Zika virus
Scott Weaver, Director, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about this virus, how efficiently it’s transmitted. If you look at the history of dengue and chikungunya [other viruses that are also transmitted by mosquitoes] in the US, there will likely be local transmission in the southern US, probably not until later in the year. I think risk will pick up later in the spring and summer [when mosquitoes are more active].”
“What is the Zika virus, and how afraid should we be? A scientist explains”, VOX, 21JAN
Dr Eurico Arruda, Professor of Virology, University of São Paulo (Brazil)
“I am worried about this large group of susceptible people going to Carnival.They will be exposed. It is likely the cases [of Zika] will increase.”
“Zika virus: health experts fear Carnival celebrations will lead to spread”, Guardian, 21JAN
Monica Roa, Member, Women’s Link Worldwide group
“It’s incredibly naive for a government to ask women to postpone getting pregnant in a context such as Colombia, where more than 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and across the region where sexual violence is prevalent.”
“Zika virus triggers pregnancy delay calls”, BBC, 23JAN
Albert Ko, Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health
“While many of us are convinced and believe it’s highly plausible that Zika virus caused this epidemic of Guillain-Barré, and can cause it anywhere the virus is being transmitted, we still lack really firm evidence to make that diagnosis.”
“Zika virus may be linked to rare nerve condition”, Guardian, 23JAN
Laura Rodrigues, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
“Until we understand the science better, postponing planned pregnancies is a sensible option. The final choice of course must be the women’s. This is a very new situation – it’s only a few months since we discovered the link between Zika and microcephaly – and there are still big gaps in knowledge.”
“Zika virus diagnosed in UK as women face more warnings to delay pregnancy”, The Independent, 23JAN
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related the Zika virus
1. As Zika virus spreads, El Salvador asks women not to get pregnant until 2018
Media: Washington Post
Byline: Joshua Partlow
Date: 22 November 2015
MEXICO CITY — The rapid spread of the Zika virus has prompted Latin American governments to urge women not to get pregnant for up to two years, an extraordinary precaution aimed at avoiding birth defects believed to be linked to the mosquito-borne illness.
What until recently was a seemingly routine public health problem for countries that are home to a certain type of mosquito has morphed into a potentially culture-shaping phenomenon in which the populations of several nations have been asked to delay procreation. The World Health Organization says at least 20 countries or territories in the region, including Barbados and Bolivia, Guadeloupe and Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Panama, have registered transmission of the virus.
2. The Zika Virus Takes A Frightening Turn — And Raises Many Questions
Byline: JASON BEAUBIEN
Date: 22 November 2015
Something new — and quite frightening — appears to be happening with the Zika virus.
For decades Zika was a virus that turned up in monkeys and occasionally in humans in Africa and Southeast Asia. Its symptoms were mild and the number of confirmed human cases was low.
The first big outbreak was on the island of Yap in Micronesia. Three quarters of the island’s population were infected — about 5,000 people. But few of them reported any symptoms.
Things began to change last year. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, turned up in Brazil. There have been at least half a million cases there and the virus has appeared in many other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
3. Zika’s alarming spread: CDC investigates link to paralyzing condition, adds 8 countries to travel warning
Media: Washington Post
Byline: Ariana Eunjung Cha
Date: 22 November 2015
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported this week that a dozen cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the United States, is expanding its advisory that pregnant women should avoid travel to countries currently seeing high rates of infection.
The agency’s initial list contained 14 countries, but the CDC on Friday added eight more — in South America, the Caribbean and Polynesia — as places where the reach of the virus is growing.
The CDC now is working with authorities in Brazil to study a potential link between the mosquito-borne virus and a rare syndrome known as Guillain-Barré that can lead to paralysis. In Brazil, which is currently the epicenter of Zika, public health officials were already investigating a link between the virus and a rare birth condition called microcephaly. That country has seen nearly 3,900 suspected cases since October, with the babies involved suffering serious brain damage.
In recent days, several countries have taken drastic measures to try to combat the virus. Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and Jamaica are all calling on women to consider delaying becoming pregnant.
4. BLOG: Mysterious Zika Virus Stumps Scientists
Media: The Daily Beast
Byline: Kent Sepkowitz
Date: 22 November 2015
We still don’t know enough about Brazil’s Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects and a paralytic condition called Guillain-Barré.
The still poorly understood Zika virus outbreak across Brazil took a turn in the wrong direction this week. Local public health authorities announced that, in addition to severe birth defects, the infection may be linked to a paralytic condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or GBS.
Unlike the birth defect microcephaly, which previously had not been associated with Zika virus, the connection between GBS and Zika already has been established. This condition, which most famously affected Catch-22 author Joseph Heller, is seen in a variety of situations. Many viral and bacterial infections may trigger the disease, as well as several vaccines.
With GBS, a person typically will lose strength in the legs at first; for some, the problem progresses in an “ascending” manner, meaning that the arms and the muscles of breathing may be next affected. Thankfully, for most patients, this severe form does not develop. If a patient—even one with paralyzed breathing muscles—can be stabilized, including support with a ventilator if needed, most will survive.
5. Zika virus may be linked to rare nerve condition
Media: Associated Press
Date: 23 November 2015
Two Latin American countries are investigating whether outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus are behind a rise in a rare and sometimes life-threatening nerve condition that can cause paralysis and leave victims on life-support.
The Zika virus has already been tentatively linked to a rash of microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with unusually small heads. And while the mechanics of how the virus may affect infants remain unclear, authorities in Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador are urging women to avoid the risk by postponing pregnancies.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women to reconsider travel to countries with Zika outbreaks, and on Friday it expanded the warning to 22 destinations, most in Latin America and the Caribbean.