BREAKING: Brazilian city cancels carnival to fight Zika as virus spreads

2016-02-03 08:23
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A Brazilian baby with microcephaly. (Felipe Dana, AP)

Paris - A Brazilian city is cancelling its Carnival celebrations and will use the money set aside for the annual festivities to fight the mosquito that carries the fast-spreading Zika virus and other diseases.

The Capivari municipality in Sao Paulo state says on its website that the more than R400 000 (from $25 000 at R16.30/$1) saved will be spent on prevention measures, including eradicating mosquito breeding grounds.

Carnival is Brazil's biggest popular party. But the Zika virus has recently been linked with a spiraling rise in reported cases of microcephaly — a rare birth defect causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and can lead to lasting developmental problems.

SEE: WHO declares Zika global emergency, Brazilians party on

Brazil's government has sent about 220 000 troops to battle the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Patient has acquired the Zika virus through sex

In Dallas County, Texas, health officials say a patient has acquired the Zika virus through sex.

Dallas County Health and Human Services said Tuesday it received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient was infected after having sexual contact with an ill person who returned from a country where Zika was present.

The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites. Investigators have been exploring the possibility the virus also can be spread through sex. It was found in one man's semen in Tahiti, and there was report of a Colorado researcher who caught the virus overseas and apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008.

Health officials note there are no reports of Zika being locally transmitted by mosquitoes in Dallas county.

15 total known cases of Zika in Nicaragua 

Nicaragua is confirming its first two cases of the Zika virus in pregnant women.

Government spokesperson Rosario Murillo says four women have tested positive for the virus in the Central American nation, including two who are three and one-half and four months pregnant. That brings the country's total known cases of Zika to 15.

Murillo says the country is monitoring World Health Organization recommendations and has directed local health authorities to pay close attention to pregnant women who may have contracted Zika.

She noted Tuesday that not all pregnant women infected with Zika give birth to babies with the rare condition known as microcephaly.

Chilean travellers have been suspected of carrying the virus 

Chile is reporting its first case of a person infected with the Zika virus that has spread fast throughout Latin America.

The Chilean Infectology Society confirmed the case Tuesday without providing any details about the patient. It only said that the virus had been transmitted while the person was abroad and that it was first recorded several weeks ago.

There are no cases of local infection so far. Some Chilean travellers have been suspected of carrying the virus but this is Chile's first confirmed case of someone infected abroad.

The World Health Organization says Zika is likely to spread to every country in the Americas where the mosquito that carries it can be found except for Canada and continental Chile.

Brazil says no resources will be spared

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is promising that no resources will be spared in the fight against the quickly spreading Zika virus, believed to be the cause of smaller than normal heads in some infants.

Rousseff addressed Congress on Tuesday, the day after the World Health Organization deemed the virus an international emergency. Researchers believe that a spike in cases of microcephaly, or babies born with small heads, has been caused by the virus.

The president says: "resources will not be lacking."

She has recounted what Latin America's most populous country had done since the outbreak was detected last year, such as sending troops to spray areas infested by mosquitoes.

Rousseff is facing impeachment proceedings and low popularity amid an economic crisis, but says she expects Congress' support.

Swiss air allows female staff choice of not flying to Brazil

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.

The Swiss carrier, a subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa, says in a statement that it's advising any pilot or member of cabin crew who is "in the phase of family planning" to speak with their gynecologist before flying to Brazil.

Tuesday's statement said the company will "until further notice" take into account requests of such employees who ask not to be deployed to Brazil. Sao Paulo is Swiss' main destination in South America.

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas.

Community education on Zika virus key for UNICEF

UNICEF is asking for $9 million for its programs in the Americas to curb the spread of Zika virus and lessen its impact on babies and their families across the region.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the UN children's agency said it would focus on educating communities in Brazil on how to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and how to wipe out their breeding sites. Dr Heather Papowitz, UNICEF's senior adviser for health emergencies, said,"Although there is still no conclusive evidence of the causal link between microcephaly and the Zika virus, there is enough concern to warrant immediate action,"

Emirates offers refunds on flights booked to Zika affected countries

The Middle East's biggest airline is offering refunds to passengers booked on flights to countries affected by the Zika virus.

Emirates said in a statement Tuesday there is "no impact on operations" for flights from its Dubai base to three South American cities: Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It is nonetheless offering passengers the chance to get refunds or rebook to alternative destinations in the Americas, saying "special provisions have been put in place for customers advised to avoid the affected regions based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidance." The offer covers tickets issued by 29 January for travel through 30 April. 

Fast-growing Emirates has emerged as a major long-haul carrier, and is the biggest operator of the Boeing 777 and the double-decker Airbus A380.

Fourth case Zika virus in Spain

Officials say laboratory tests have confirmed a fourth case Zika virus in Spain.

The south-eastern regional government of Murcia said Tuesday that tests carried out by the National Microbiology Center confirmed the case of a man treated two weeks ago at a regional hospital after visiting an unspecified country affected by the virus.

The man, who was not identified but was said to be middle-aged and a Spanish resident, has been given the all clear after been treated for the virus and to avoid contagion.

The other three cases in Spain also concerned people who had traveled to affected regions in Latin America.

WHO is recommending that visitors and residents in affected areas, especially pregnant women, take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that transmit the virus.

 Vaccine to prevent the Zika viru under development

Drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur says it is launching an effort to research and develop a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus.

Sanofi's announcement Tuesday comes the day after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas.

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika, which is in the same family of viruses as dengue. Sanofi made the first licensed dengue vaccine shot, licensed last year in Brazil after years of scientific struggle to develop one.

France-based Sanofi said in a statement Tuesday that its experience with the dengue vaccine "can be rapidly leveraged to help understand the spread" of Zika and "potentially speed identification of a vaccine candidate for further clinical development."