WHO, PAHO chiefs meet in Brazil over Zika

Brazil map
Brazil map

Marcio Silva / iStock

In international Zika virus developments, World Health Organization (WHO) officials are in Brazil to assess the country's response, a case-control microcephaly study launched in Brazil, new efforts are being explored to combat mosquitoes that transmit the disesase, and Cuba activated its military to battle mosquitoes.

Brazil assessment, microcephaly study

Top officials from the WHO, including Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne, MD, were scheduled to meet with Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, today as part of an effort to assess the country's Zika virus situation and response to the outbreak.

Tomorrow the group is slated to visit a clinical research center in Pernambuco and hold a press briefing with Brazil's health minister at the WHO/PAHO office in Brasilia.

In other Brazil-related developments, researchers from the CDC and Brazil's health ministry today launched a case-control study in Brazil in search of more definitive evidence on the possible link between Zika virus and microcephaly, or undersized heads, the Associated Press (AP) reported today.

Eight teams made of up a CDC researcher and three Brazilian health workers will visit the homes of randomly selected families in Paraiba state. Their goal is to recruit at least 130 babies with microcephaly and their mothers, and two to three times that number of babies born without microcephaly during the same period.

To help tease out what role Zika virus might have played, researchers will compare the two groups, analyzing blood samples to test for Zika and dengue viruses, the AP reported. Investigators will also look for other possible explanations, such as past dengue infection, toxoplasmosis, or toxin exposure. Enrollment is expected to take 4 to 5 weeks, the report said.

Mosquito control efforts

On the mosquito control front, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today announced it would facilitate the delivery of a gamma cell irradiator to Brazil, which could be used to scale up the production of sterilized male mosquitoes that could be released to help drive down Aedes aegypti populations in the country's hardest-hit areas.

The IAEA made the announcement during a 2-day expert meeting to discuss sterile insect technique (SIT) as part of a comprehensive effort to help control mosquito populations. In its press release the agency said SIT has been successfully used for more than 50 years to curb livestock and agricultural insect pests.

Elsewhere, though no Zika virus cases have been reported in Cuba, its government yesterday announced a response plan that includes mobilizing 9,000 military troops and 200 police officers to battle the mosquito that transmits Zika virus and other diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya, Bernama reported today.

Cuba warned that environmental factors are favorable for the spread of Zika virus and urged its citizens to make the fight against A aegypti mosquitos a personal matter, according to the report.

See also:

Feb 22 PAHO press release

Feb 23 AP story

Feb 23 IAEA press release

Feb 23 Bernama report

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