Tag Archives: zika virus

John Oldfield: How to Get Ahead of Zika – and the Next One

How to Get Ahead of Zika – and the Next One | Source: OOSKAnews Voices, Aug 16 2016 |

At a recent forum on global development in Washington DC, the United States Deputy Homeland Security Advisor asserted that the U.S. government cannot merely react or respond to Zika. She is right. The U.S. and the entire global community must find ways to get ahead of its spread, and look for opportunities to prevent, or at least mitigate the severity of, the next such water-related infectious disease.

John Oldfield website pic

John Oldfield, CEO of Water 2017

Increased focus on global water security provides such an opportunity.

In 2012, the United States intelligence community produced an Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security. The report asserts that “during the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems — shortages, poor water quality, or floods — that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important US policy objectives.”

Water scarcity leads to water hoarding, and families often hoard water in such a way as to facilitate the breeding of mosquitoes. More mosquitoes may lead to a more rapid transmission of Zika, malaria and the next water-related infectious disease. Importantly, as this progression holds true, so does its inverse. Headlines scream that water will cause wars, but the opposite has historically held true. Water brings parties together before conflict erupts. Headlines declare that unsafe water kills millions of people each year. What they don’t say is that safe water (and proper disposal of human waste) keeps billions alive, healthy, and in school or at work.

We can predict the future of water. We know when and where water scarcity will occur with increasingly accurate, granular, and long-term forecasts, even accounting for a changing climate and population growth and movement. Donor and developing country governments along with private sector stakeholders should combine this stronger forecasting ability with deployable assets – people, technology, money – to:

  • identify shared river basins where a lack of institutional capacity is likely to lead to conflict over water resources, then strengthen the capacity of those riparian states and subnational stakeholders to prevent conflict;

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Water and sanitation likely to be best answer to Zika virus, say UN experts

Water and sanitation likely to be best answer to Zika virus, say UN experts | Source: UN News Centre, Mar 11 2016 |

11 March 2016 – Improving water and sanitation services may be the best answer to addressing the outbreak of the Zika virus, according to United Nations human rights experts, who stress that such critical factors should not be in the shadow of hi-tech solutions being considered.


Mosquitoes in a laboratory. Removing stagnant water used by these insects to breed is crucial in combating the spread of Zika. Photo: FAO/Simon Miana

“We can engineer sterile mosquitos or use sophisticated Internet tools to map data globally, but we should not forget that today 100 million people in Latin America still lack access to hygienic sanitation systems and 70 million people lack piped water in their places of residence,” Léo Heller, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said in a press release.

Highlighting a strong link between weak sanitation systems and the current outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, as well as dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya, he stressed that “the most effective way to tackle this problem is to improve the failing services.”


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WHO Mosquito control: can it stop Zika at source?

Mosquito control: can it stop Zika at source? | Source: WHO, Feb 17 2016

Aedes aegypti, the principal mosquito species that transmits the Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses, has a number of breeding and behavioural quirks that make it extremely difficult to control. This article looks at conventional and new techniques for control and summarizes WHO guidance.

The possibility that a mosquito bite during pregnancy could be linked to severe birth defects in newborns has alarmed the public and astonished scientists. Detection of an upsurge in cases of microcephaly, associated in time and place with Zika virus circulation, has been accompanied by findings of additional congenital malformation of the brain, detected in fetuses (by ultrasound), stillbirths, and newborns, and evidence of damage to eyesight and hearing. For women of childbearing age living in or visiting affected countries, the prospect of giving birth to a baby with such severe defects is terrifying.

The association of virus circulation with an increased detection of Guillain-Barré syndrome adds to the concern. GBS is an autoimmune disorder with various causes, including infections with some viruses and bacteria, most commonly Campylobacter jejuni. To date, an association between Zika virus circulation and an increased incidence of GBS has been reported in 8 countries: French Polynesia, Brazil, El Salvador, the French territory of Martinique, Colombia, Suriname, the Bolvarian Republic of Venezuela, and Honduras. In some of these countries, the fact that Zika is the only circulating flavivirus adds weight to this presumed association. Even in countries with advanced health systems, around 5% of patients with the syndrome die, despite immunotherapy. Many require treatment, including ventilatory support, in an intensive care unit, sometimes for months up to a year, adding to the burden on health services.

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Brazil official links inadequate sanitation to Zika outbreak

Brazil official links inadequate sanitation to Zika outbreak | Source: Yahoo News, Feb 11, 2016 |

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s minister of cities says there is a “strong link” between the country’s woeful sanitation system and the current outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Gilberto Kassab said Wednesday that while the country has made progress over the past decade, sewage and water delivery systems leave “much to be desired,” and promised that basic sanitation will continue to be a government priority.

Sewage often flows through open channels into stagnant waters, and a lack of piped water service leads many Brazilians to rely on tanks that create a habitat for the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, which has been linked to a rare birth defect called microcephaly which can leave babies with long-lasting health and developmental problems.

Kassab conceded the virus spread “has a strong link with the absence of sanitation,” in quotes carried by the O Estado de S. Paulo daily.

His comments came at a news conference in the capital by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, which issued a statement blasting the government over water treatment, sewage and the collection of rubbish. The conference’s head, Sergio da Rocha, said “the lack of basic sanitation is among the principal causes for the proliferation of mosquitoes.”

Trata Brasil, a Sao Paulo-based pro-sanitation organization, says 35 million Brazilians, or around 18 percent of the population, do not have regular access to tap water. The group estimates that more than 60 percent of sewage nationwide flows untreated into waterways and onto the country’s famed beaches.

Sanitation has become a hot-button issue here ahead of this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as officials have acknowledged they will be unable to fulfill promises to clean up waterways where aquatic sports are to be held. An Associated Press investigation last year found Rio’s Olympic water venues are rife with sewage, with such high viral levels that experts say they represent a serious health risk to the approximately 1,400 Olympic athletes slated to compete in them.

As diseases proliferate, mosquitoes becoming Public Enemy No. 1

As diseases proliferate, mosquitoes becoming Public Enemy No. 1. Source: USA Today, Jan 15 2016.

The Zika virus is causing concerns across Central and South America. There is no vaccine known at this time but it can be deadly for children.

As diseases go, Zika virus was always considered minor league.

It didn’t make people all that sick; most infected people had no symptoms at all. Zika was confined to a relatively narrow belt that ran from equatorial Africa to Asia.

Today, Zika has spread to Central and South America and is linked to an alarming increase in once-rare birth defects in Brazil. Although Zika was first diagnosed in Brazil in May, it’s been linked to more than 3,500 cases of microcephaly, in which infants are born with small heads and immature brain development.


An Aedes albopictus or Asian Tiger Mosquito, spreads dengue fever, the world’s fastest growing mosquito-borne disease. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Yet Brazil isn’t just fighting Zika.

That country is also combating outbreaks caused by dengue and chikungunya viruses, which are known for causing fevers and debilitating joint pain. Dengue can be fatal.

The USA needs to prepare for a similar scenario, in which epidemics of multiple mosquito-borne diseases break out simultaneously, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who co-wrote a new report in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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