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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Holds Emergency Meeting On Zika; U.S. President Obama, Brazil President Rousseff Discuss Outbreak; U.S. Senate Health Committee To Hold Hearing On Disease

Agence France-Presse: WHO mulls declaring global health emergency over Zika
“World Health Organization experts began emergency talks Monday on whether a Zika virus outbreak suspected of causing a surge in serious birth defects in South America should be declared a global health emergency…” (Larson, 2/1).

Agence France-Presse: Brazil’s Rousseff vows to win Zika ‘war’
“Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vowed to ‘win the war’ against the Zika virus, but some experts criticized her government’s response and warned the Olympics could fuel the disease’s spread…” (Ramos, 1/29).

Associated Press: The Latest: Obama, Brazil’s Rousseff discuss spread of Zika
“…In a telephone conversation Friday, the leaders agreed on the importance of working together to spearhead research and speed development of vaccines and other technologies to control the mosquito-borne virus. They also agreed to prioritize building national, regional, and global networks to fight the threat from infectious diseases more broadly…” (1/29).

Bloomberg Business: Brazil’s President Pledges to Win ‘War’ Against Spread of Zika
“…The government, which is mobilizing troops from the three branches of the armed forces, would spare no cost to combat the disease, President Dilma Rousseff said Friday, after meeting with governors from five states to coordinate efforts…” (Edgerton/Khodr, 1/29).

The Hill: Senate to hold hearing on Zika virus
“The Senate Health Committee is planning to hold a hearing on the Zika virus amid increasing concern from lawmakers about a potential U.S. outbreak. ‘Senator [Patty] Murray and I will very soon hold a hearing to gain a better understanding of how the Congress can support efforts to prevent further spread of the virus and protect families from being affected,’ Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the panel, said in a statement…” (Carney, 1/29).

NPR: Zika Virus Prompts Emergency Meeting Of The World Health Organization
“WHO Director General Margaret Chan called the meeting for Monday in Geneva to decide whether the Zika virus outbreak rises to a public health emergency that would be of international concern…” (Beaubien, 2/1).

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News Outlets Highlight Latin American Women's Lack Of Access To Family Planning Services, Nations' Abortion Policies Amid Zika Outbreak, Disease's Association With Birth Defects

Associated Press: In face of Zika virus, women ponder abortion, childlessness
“…While Zika’s exact link to the rare birth defect known as microcephaly is still unclear, warnings from El Salvador, at least six other countries, and health officials across the Americas are raising anxiety for millions of would-be and could-be mothers in affected areas…” (Sherman/Aleman, 1/28).

The Guardian: Zika outbreak raises fears of rise in deaths from unsafe abortions
“Campaigners are calling on Latin American governments to rethink their policies on contraception and abortion because of the spread of Zika virus, which they fear will lead to a rise in women’s deaths from unsafe abortions as well as the predicted surge in brain-damaged babies…” (Boseley/Douglas, 1/29).

International Business Times: Zika virus: Activists petition Brazil’s Supreme court to waive law banning abortions for infected women
“A group of Brazilian lawyers, activists, and scientists are petitioning the nation’s Supreme Court to waive the law banning abortions for women who have contracted the Zika virus…” (Watkinson, 1/30).

NPR: Zika Virus Isn’t The First Disease To Spark A Debate About Abortion
“…Reproductive rights activists are outraged that the Salvadoran government would [recommend women not get pregnant until 2018] in a country where women have no legal options to terminate a pregnancy if they are concerned about birth defects. That’s because the law recognizes a fetus as a human being from the moment of conception…” (Garsd, 1/31).

TIME: Why Latin American Women Can’t Follow the Zika Advice to Avoid Pregnancy
“…In all of Central and South America, there are only three countries where abortion is broadly legal (those countries are Uruguay, Guyana, and French Guiana.) Everywhere else in the region, abortion is only allowed in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is at risk, depending on the country. Only Mexico, Colombia, and Panama allow mothers to terminate pregnancies because of a fetal impairment…” (Alter, 1/28).

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Researchers Investigate Potential Prevention Methods For Zika Virus, Including Vaccines, Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Bloomberg Business: For Those Threatened by Zika, Vaccines May Not Come Soon Enough
“Even if the world’s largest drugmakers were to mobilize as fast as they could, and even if the science were straightforward, it’s unlikely a Zika vaccine could be developed quickly enough to address the expanding outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus that may cause birth defects when pregnant women are infected…” (Koons/Gale, 1/31).

National Geographic: Can We Stop Mosquitoes From Infecting the World?
“…Disease outbreaks hitchhiking in the innards of mosquitoes, like the Zika virus currently racing across South and Central America, are likely to become increasingly frequent and far-reaching, public health experts say. Climate change, along with growing urbanization and the rise of international shipping and travel, will stretch the insects’ range and access to large human populations…” (Katz, 2/1).

New York Times: New Weapon to Fight Zika: The Mosquito
“…[These mosquitoes] have been genetically engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, which die before they can reach adulthood. In small tests, this approach has lowered mosquito populations by 80 percent or more. … But the new efforts have yet to be proved, and it would take some years to scale them up to a meaningful level. An alternative to mosquito control, a vaccine against Zika, is not expected to be available soon…” (Pollack, 1/30).

New York Times: Vaccine for Zika Virus May Be Years Away, Disease Experts Warn
“…But even as a host of companies have announced plans to develop a vaccine, disease experts say it could be years — maybe as long as a decade — before an effective product makes its way to the public…” (Thomas, 1/29).

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News Outlets Explore Various Aspects Of Zika Virus, Disease's Spread In Americas

The Guardian: Zika virus could be bigger global health threat than Ebola, say health experts (McKie, 1/30).

Huffington Post: What The Ebola Crisis Can Teach Us About Responding To The Zika Outbreak (Alfred, 1/30).

New York Times: Microcephaly, Spotlighted by Zika Virus, Has Long Afflicted and Mystified (Saint Louis, 1/31).

New York Times: Tears and Bewilderment in Brazilian City Facing Zika Crisis (Romero, 1/29).

Reuters: Did Brazil, global health agencies fumble Zika response? (Prada et al., 1/30).

Wall Street Journal: The Brazilian Doctors Who Sounded the Alarm on Zika and Microcephaly (Johnson et al., 1/29).

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USAID Announces Additional $97M In Emergency Food Aid To Ethiopia; U.N. SG Ban Calls For More Donor Assistance

Agence France-Presse: Millions of Ethiopians facing worst drought for decades: U.N.
“Ethiopia is struggling from its worst drought for 30 years with millions in dire need of life saving aid, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Sunday…” (Boulo, 1/31).

Associated Press: U.S. pledges $97M to combat Ethiopia’s drought
“The U.S. has boosted its emergency food aid to Ethiopia by nearly $100 million to combat one of the worst droughts in decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Sunday…” (Schemm/Meseret, 1/31).

U.N. News Centre: Visiting drought-hit region of Ethiopia, Ban urges support to Government-led humanitarian efforts
“The international community must stand with the people of Ethiopia in their time of need, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said [Sunday], urging donors gathered in Addis Ababa to step up assistance to the country, before heading to the drought-stricken region of Oromia where he witnessed first-hand efforts under way to battle the effects of one of the most powerful El Niño events in recorded history…” (1/31).

VOA News: U.S. Announces $97 Million for Ethiopia Drought, Famine Relief
“…USAID said the assistance included more than 176,000 metric tons of food that would be distributed to over four million Ethiopians and refugees…” (1/31).

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Only Democratic Presidential Candidates Respond To GMHC Survey On Plans To End AIDS

MSNBC: A lot like Reagan? Not one GOP candidate replied to this survey
“…On Dec. 3, 2015, all major candidates running for the White House were asked to submit their plans to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic to GMHC, the world’s first HIV/AIDS service organization … Of the 18 candidates who received the survey, only three responded — Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders. No Republican campaigns submitted a reply, and prominent HIV/AIDS activists were quick to note their silence wasn’t unprecedented…” (Neese, 1/30).

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International Donations To West Africa For Ebola Response Difficult To Track, $1.9B Not Delivered, Oxfam Says

Associated Press: Oxfam: $1.9B in Ebola aid not delivered by donors
“International donors have failed to deliver $1.9 billion in promised funds to help West African countries recover from the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people and decimated already weak health care systems, the U.K.-based charity Oxfam said Sunday. The remaining $3.9 billion pledged has been difficult to track because of ‘scant information’ and a lack of transparency, the group said…” (Corey-Boulet, 1/31).

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U.N. SG Ban Announces $100M From Emergency Fund To Respond To Humanitarian Situations In 9 Countries

U.N. News Centre: U.N. allocates $100 million in emergency funds to assist vulnerable people in nine neglected crises
“United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [Friday] released $100 million from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for severely underfunded aid operations in nine neglected emergencies. The funds will enable life-saving help for millions of people forced from their homes in Central and Eastern Africa, those affected by conflict and food insecurity in Libya and Mali, and the most vulnerable and at risk of malnutrition in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…” (1/29).

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African Leaders Malaria Alliance Recognizes Nations For Progress On Disease Prevention, Treatment

The Guardian: African countries ​congratulated for ​driving down malaria deaths
“…The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) has presented awards of excellence to 14 African countries, including Liberia, Rwanda, and Senegal for their performance in controlling malaria over the past four years, and Comoros, Guinea, and Mali for showing the biggest improvements. A further eight awards were given to countries that achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halting and reversing the incidence of malaria…” (Kweifio-Okai, 2/1).

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Indian Physicians, Police Begin Campaign Targeting Illegal Sex-Selective Abortions Near Capital City

Wall Street Journal: India Targets Illicit Sex-Selective Abortions
“…Public health and law enforcement authorities say Mr. Kaushik’s ramshackle clinic and others like it are part of a vast, illicit underground industry aimed at preventing the birth of female children, which has helped give India one of the most-skewed sex ratios in the world. In Bahadurgarh, just 30 miles outside the Indian capital in the northern state of Haryana, police and doctors are mounting an aggressive new campaign to tackle the widespread practices, casting a light on a business that has largely operated out of sight…” (Bhattacharya, 1/31).

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Eastern Europe Experiences Increasing Number Of H1N1Cases; Flu Spread Normal So Far, WHO Official Says

GlobalPost: Remember swine flu? It’s back
“…[I]n Eastern Europe, it’s swine flu that’s commanding attention, killing scores of people across the region and making authorities tell the public not to panic. … [Caroline Brown, a Europe-based WHO expert,] added that the WHO hasn’t seen anything out of the ordinary so far, and her organization expects to see cases build up across Europe this season…” (Peleschuk, 1/29).

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Number Of Zimbabweans Needing Food Aid To Double Or Triple In 2016, Social Welfare Minister Says

Bloomberg Business: Zimbabweans Needing Food Aid May Triple This Year, Minister Says
“The number of Zimbabweans who will need emergency food aid this year may have doubled or trebled from last year, Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said. The southern African nation is facing its worst drought in almost two decades, withering crops and killing cattle as water sources run dry…” (Marawanyika, 2/1).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorial, Opinion Pieces Discuss Zika Virus Prevention Strategies, Ethics Of Mosquito Eradication

Washington Post: The Zika threat
Editorial Board

“…The spread of a new or unusual disease … raises an important challenge to biomedical researchers. There’s been a hope that gains in genomics and other disciplines could lead to a rapid-response mechanism for fighting such threats. … It is not easy to bend the rules of nature and create effective vaccines and drugs quickly. But the arrival of Zika should remind us that basic and applied research to this end is well worth the investment” (1/30).

Reuters: Why you can’t just wipe out mosquitoes to get rid of the Zika virus
Helen Coster, senior editor at Reuters

“…[R]ather than focus efforts on killing off all mosquitoes, R&D funding directed at vaccines, treatment, and other interventions is likely to produce greater returns. On Tuesday President Barack Obama called for the rapid development of tests, vaccines, and treatment to fight Zika … Now is the time to act. It’s fine to spare the mosquitoes — as long as we invest in sparing human lives as well” (2/1).

Slate: Let’s Kill All the Mosquitoes
Daniel Engber, columnist at Slate

“…Whatever its unintended consequences (and there are always unintended consequences), the elimination of mosquitoes would save billions of human lives and trillions of dollars, in the decades to come. It would end untold suffering among the world’s poorest people. And that’s just the most extreme scenario. … If we got rid of these disgusting critters, wouldn’t everyone be better off?…” (1/29).

Foreign Policy: The Zika Virus Isn’t Just an Epidemic. It’s Here to Stay.
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations

“…[P]ublic health leaders and politicians had better brace for a very long haul on Zika. The virus will hide, infecting a range of insects, perhaps monkeys, even birds. And it will return in seasonal cycles, as have other mosquito-carried viruses, such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya, and dengue. Because so many ‘foreign’ viruses carried by mosquitoes are now spreading across the Western Hemisphere at the same time, there will be misdiagnosis, mystery, and perhaps acute illnesses due to co-infections. Until we have an effective vaccine and have executed mammoth immunization campaigns in all of the nations of the Americas, Zika will haunt us, sicken some of us, and endanger our babies” (1/28).

Forbes: Mosquito Wars Update: Would You Choose GMO ‘Mutants,’ Pesticides, Dengue, Or Zika Viruses?
Judy Stone, infectious disease specialist and columnist

“…There are no vaccines or effective treatments for Zika, chikungunya, or dengue, and care is supportive. The WHO recommends efforts to control the mosquito vector that spreads the disease. … I, and many other scientists, prefer the use of targeted interventions with Wolbachia or Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes, to the alternatives of indiscriminately harmful pesticides or widespread, painful, and debilitating infections of dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and now Zika” (2/1).

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Expanding Global Response To Pediatric TB Critical To Advancing Child Health

International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease: Out of the shadows: shining a light on children with tuberculosis
Eric Goosby, U.N. secretary general’s special envoy on tuberculosis

“…In order to contribute to the overall improvements in child health, we must change the way pediatric TB is identified and treated. Critically, improved pediatric point-of-care diagnostics are necessary to identify those children infected with TB. In addition, we need to develop a short, effective, and child friendly treatment for any form of TB, including MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant TB) or TB associated with HIV infection. And, we need an effective vaccine so that children will be protected from contracting TB at all. … This would help identify children with TB and extend treatment to them — taking our children out of the shadows. To do so is both a historic opportunity and humanitarian imperative, for the health of our world, our families and, most importantly, our children” (December 2015).

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Better Immunization Coverage, Improvements In Health Systems Can Help Create 'Universal Prevention' Of Infectious Diseases

Fox News: Infectious disease vaccines: A new approach to global health security
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

“…[W]e need to concentrate our attention [on immunization coverage] if we want to prevent future outbreaks and make the world safer from infectious disease. Because the parts of the world that are missing out on measles vaccinations and routine immunization are also most likely missing out on other vital health interventions. … [W]hile it is true that a lack of health provision and vital public health services makes it tougher for poor countries to cope with epidemics, it is also true that the absence of these facilities and services creates conditions that are ripe for epidemics to occur in the first place. By failing to address this reality we are effectively increasing the global health security threat. Ultimately what is needed is a radical shift in perspective; if we are to be successful in making the world safe and secure from the threat of pathogens, then we need to stop thinking of the spread of infectious disease as an invading force and instead see it for what it really is — a need for universal prevention” (1/29).

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World Should Encourage, Support Breastfeeding

Huffington Post: Breastfeeding can save lives and boost the economy — but mothers need more support
Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general for family, women’s, and children’s health, and vice chair of the board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

“…Reaching the global breastfeeding target will require rapid progress, but experience shows that rates can be improved dramatically and quickly. … This requires targeted interventions through education and health services, such as accurate information and breastfeeding support from health staff or peers. But beyond health interventions, a political and societal shift are needed. For example, adequate maternity protection policies, and breastfeeding-friendly workplaces and public spaces. Organizations should review and seek to continuously improve their policies and support systems … Governments also have a critical role — including in regulating the breast-milk substitutes industry. As a society, we have a duty to ensure that breastfeeding is encouraged, supported, and celebrated. The cost of not doing so in lives — and dollars — is far too high” (1/29).

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Governments Must 'Take Lead' On Ending Childhood Obesity

Newsweek: Ending Childhood Obesity is a Global Challenge
Sania Nishtar and Peter Gluckman, co-chairs of the WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity

“…[O]nly a concerted whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach can hope to stem the rise in obesity. … [G]overnments must show leadership because the sectors involved are much broader than just health. … [The WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity’s] recommendations focus on changing an environment that tends towards obesity — by encouraging and improving access to healthy diets and physical activity — and ensuring a healthier life course … Changing … cultural norms will be vital if the Sustainable Development Goals’ targets for reducing premature deaths due to noncommunicable disease, malnutrition in all its forms, and Universal Health Coverage are to be achieved. … As [WHO director general Margaret] Chan noted, ‘implementing the recommendations will take political will, and courage.’ Governments must take the lead in ensuring appropriate action” (1/30).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

U.S. Government Blog Posts Discuss Findings From New Lancet Series On Breastfeeding

The following blog posts discuss findings from a new series of papers on breastfeeding published by The Lancet.

USAID’s “IMPACTblog”: Healthy Beginnings: New Evidence Cites Breastfeeding’s Health Benefits for Moms, Babies, and Economies
Elizabeth Fox, director of the Office of Health, Infectious Diseases, and Nutrition in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, discusses the benefits of breastfeeding and describes USAID’s efforts to promote the behavior (1/29).

U.S. State Department’s “DipNote”: Breastfeeding: An Investment We Can’t Afford To Miss
Katie Taylor, deputy child and maternal survival coordinator at USAID and the deputy assistant administrator for the Bureau for Global Health, discusses the global health impact of breastfeeding. She notes, “The new series from The Lancet provides invaluable evidence that contributes to our efforts to change social norms and mobilize communities around healthy behaviors such as breastfeeding. These efforts have the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and newborns, and ultimately, to end a generational epidemic of preventable child and maternal deaths” (1/29).

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Blog Posts Examine Zika Virus Outbreak, Disease Prevention, Response

Chatham House: Zika Is Not the New Ebola
Michael Edelstein, consultant research fellow, and Brian McCloskey, senior consulting fellow, both at the Centre on Global Health Security, write, “While some lessons from the Ebola outbreak can be applied, this new threat presents a different challenge and needs a different response…” (1/29).

White House Blog: The Zika Virus: What You Need to Know
Amy Pope, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security, describes the Zika virus and discusses how it is transmitted, who is at risk of infection, and recommendations on how to prevent infection, including recommendations for pregnant women (1/28).

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U.S. Army Researchers Announce Phase 2 Clinical Trial For Experimental Ebola Vaccine

Health.mil: Army researchers making critical advances in global health with development of Ebola vaccine
“The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) recently announced the initiation of a Phase 2 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of two potential Ebola vaccine candidates. The trial represents a significant step forward in the quest to curb future outbreaks of the disease…” (1/28).

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