KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Declares Zika Virus, Association With Birth Defects, International Public Health Emergency

News outlets report on the WHO’s declaration of Zika virus as a public health emergency of international concern, including Director-General Margaret Chan’s statement on the issue.

Agence France-Presse: WHO declares international health emergency over Zika
“The World Health Organization on Monday said a surge in serious birth defects in South America was ‘strongly suspected’ of being caused by the Zika virus and constituted an international health emergency…” (Larson, 2/1).

BBC News: Zika-linked condition: WHO declares global emergency
“…The WHO alert puts Zika in the same category of concern as Ebola. It means research and aid will be fast-tracked to tackle the infection…” (Roberts, 2/1).

Financial Times: Zika declared a global emergency by WHO
“…Margaret Chan, WHO director general, said the surge in cases of babies born with underdeveloped brains in Brazil and other parts of Latin America represented an ‘extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world’…” (Ward, 2/1).

The Guardian: World Health Organization declares Zika virus public health emergency
“…The declaration, made by the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, will trigger funding for research to try to establish whether the Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, is responsible for the large numbers of babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil. It will also put resources behind a massive effort to prevent pregnant women becoming infected and, through mosquito control, stop the virus spreading…” (Boseley/Watts, 2/1).

The Hill: Zika virus spread declared ‘international emergency’
“…While the virus causes mild symptoms resembling dengue fever in healthy adults, it can be dangerous for pregnant women and has been linked to birth defects. The virus could also be linked to a rare paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome, though a correlation is unconfirmed…” (Ferris, 2/1).

Huffington Post: WHO Declares Public Health Emergency Around Zika Virus (Grenoble et al., 2/1).

International Business Times: Zika Virus Declared An International Emergency By World Health Organization (Whitman, 2/1).

Los Angeles Times: Global health agency’s declaration signals new phase in battle against Zika virus (McDonnell, 2/1).

New York Times: Zika Virus a Global Health Emergency, WHO Says (Tavernise/McNeil, 2/1).

POLITICO: Zika virus: WHO declares global health emergency (Huet, 2/1).

Reuters: Zika virus tied to birth defects is international emergency, WHO says (Nebehay/Hirschler, 2/1).

Reuters: Africa, Asia vulnerable to spread of Zika virus: WHO (Nebehay, 2/2).

TIME: WHO Declares Zika an International Public Health Emergency (Worland, 2/1).

U.N. News Centre: Zika virus an ‘international public health emergency,’ U.N. health agency declares (2/1).

USA TODAY: WHO declares birth defects linked to Zika virus a public health emergency (Unger, 2/1).

U.S. News & World Report: WHO Declares Zika a ‘Public Health Emergency’ (Sternberg, 2/1).

VICE: The World Health Organization Just Declared the Zika Virus a Global Public Health Emergency (Conti, 2/1).

Wall Street Journal: World Health Organization Declares Spread of Zika Virus a Global Health Emergency (McKay, 2/1).

Washington Post: Zika virus: WHO declares global public health emergency, says causal link to brain defects ‘strongly suspected’ (Cha et al., 2/1).

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U.S. Government Responding To Zika Virus Outbreak, Working With International Partners

The Atlantic: What the Federal Government Is Saying About the Zika Virus
“…[S]o far, as the world has watched the virus spread in the Americas, the Obama administration and federal health agencies have argued that this is no time to panic. Though Zika virus — a West Nile relative that’s ‘spreading explosively’ in the Western Hemisphere — will likely cause outbreaks in the continental United States, officials so far expect them to be limited…” (Kelly, 2/2).

Military Times: Zika virus: Pentagon will relocate at-risk family members
“Pregnant family members of active-duty personnel and civilian Defense Department employees assigned to areas affected by the Zika virus will be offered voluntary relocation, a Defense Department official said Monday…” (Kime, 2/1).

Reuters: U.S. adds four more countries to Zika travel alert list
“…The CDC added American Samoa, Costa Rica, Curacao, and Nicaragua to a list of 28 other regions, on the day the World Health Organization declared the virus — linked to thousands of suspected cases of birth defects in Brazil — an international public health emergency…” (Grover, 1/1).

Reuters: CDC director says WHO declaration ‘calls world to action’ on Zika
“… ‘CDC, along with the entire U.S. government, is actively involved in the world’s Zika response and working 24/7 to learn more about the virus and protect health,’ Frieden said in a statement emailed to Reuters…” (Steenhuysen, 2/1).

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Brazil's President Authorizes Entry Into Private Property To Eliminate Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes; Officials Issue Warning Over Pregnant Women Traveling To Rio Olympics

Agence France-Presse: Brazil issues Olympics warning as WHO declares Zika emergency
“… ‘The risk, which I would say is serious, is for pregnant women. It is clearly not advisable for you (to travel to the Games) because you don’t want to take that risk,’ said President Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff, Jaques Wagner. Wagner sought to downplay fears for Olympic athletes and fans who are not expectant mothers…” (Larson, 2/2).

Associated Press: Brazil officials can access all buildings to fight mosquito
“Brazil’s president has signed a measure allowing health officials access to any building to eradicate breeding grounds for a mosquito spreading the Zika virus…” (2/1).

Reuters: Brazil authorizes forced entry to private property to fight Zika
“…The presidential decree was published in the government’s official gazette on Monday and allows the forced entry by health officials into public and private properties if they have been abandoned or the owners are not present…” (Fonseca/Ewing, 2/1).

Reuters: Exclusive: Brazil says Zika virus outbreak worse than believed
“Brazil’s top health official said on Monday that the Zika virus outbreak is proving to be worse than believed because most cases show no symptoms, but improved testing should allow the country to get a better grip on the burgeoning public health crisis…” (Boadle/Paraguassu, 2/2).

TIME: How Brazil Uncovered the Possible Connection Between Zika and Microcephaly
“The Zika outbreak almost certainly began in the Brazilian city of Recife, where doctors figured out what was happening to pregnant women…” (Sifferlin, 2/1).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Allows Health Workers to Enter Private Property to Combat Zika
“…The emergency measure will mainly open doors for state and municipal health workers sent out to destroy mosquito-breeding grounds — stagnant water typically left in buckets, drains or ditches. In other cases, Brazilian law requires authorities to obtain a warrant from a judge to enter private property without the owner present…” (Jelmayer, 2/1).

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Countries Worldwide Raise Alarms Over Zika Virus

Agence France-Presse: Thailand confirms first domestic case of Zika virus
“…Authorities said the 22-year-old Thai man is likely to have caught the same strain of the virus that has caused panic in countries such as Brazil and Colombia…” (2/2).

Agence France-Presse: Honduras declares national emergency over Zika virus
“Honduras has declared a state of emergency after officials said the number of Zika infections is rising at an ‘alarming’ rate in the Central American country…” (2/2).

New York Times: Australia to Begin Monitoring for Zika Virus
“Health officials in tropical far-north Queensland and Papua New Guinea, to Australia’s north, have begun monitoring for the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which was declared an international public health emergency on Monday by the World Health Organization…” (Innis, 2/1).

Reuters: Venezuela likely underestimating Zika cases: doctors, Colombia say
“President Nicolas Maduro’s government is likely underestimating the number of Zika cases in Venezuela, which could hurt efforts to combat the virus-bearing mosquito, according to local doctors, opposition politicians, and neighboring Colombia…” (Ulmer, 2/1).

Washington Post: Why isn’t Zika causing birth defects in Colombia? It may only be a matter of time.
“…Brazil and French Polynesia are the only two places so far where health officials have linked the virus to an apparent increase in microcephaly. This is one reason global health officials are watching Colombia closely for similar evidence…” (Cobb et al., 2/2).

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Pharmaceutical, Diagnostic Companies Launch Research Into Zika Virus Vaccine, Test

Associated Press: Drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur launches effort for Zika vaccine
“Drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur announced Tuesday it is launching an effort to research and develop a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency over its explosive spread across the Americas…” (2/2).

Bloomberg Business: Sanofi to Work on Zika Vaccine as Health Emergency Declared
“…The French drugmaker plans to harness its work against dengue fever to attack Zika, a virus from the same family, Sanofi said in a statement on Tuesday…” (Fourcade, 2/2).

Financial Times: Sanofi leads hunt for Zika vaccine
“…The company said its R&D and industrial infrastructure could be ‘rapidly leveraged’ to help understand the spread of Zika and potentially speed identification of a vaccine candidate for development…” (Ward, 2/2).

Reuters: Sanofi launches hunt for Zika vaccine as disease fears grow
“…So far, the only groups with firm plans to develop a Zika vaccine are small biotech companies and academic institutions, although GlaxoSmithKline has said it is concluding feasibility studies to evaluate if its vaccine technology is suitable…” (Vidalon/Hirschler, 2/2).

Washington Post: A Md. biotech firm claims it can track Zika virus by testing mosquitoes
“…After a 21-day sprint, GenArraytion claims to have come up with a molecular test that can spot the [Zika] virus in mosquitoes before it infects humans. The goal is to give health agencies a better way to map the virus…” (Gregg, 2/1).

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Obama Administration Plans To Ask For $755M In FY17 Budget For Cancer 'Moonshot' Research

CQ News: Obama to Seek $1 Billion for Cancer ‘Moonshot’ in Budget Plan
“The White House will ask Congress for $1 billion to carry out Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s ‘moonshot’ cancer initiative when it submits its fiscal 2017 budget request next week, according to senior administration officials…” (Zanona, 2/1).

The Hill: Obama seeking $1 billion for ‘cancer moonshot’
“…The funding would directly support Vice President Biden’s ‘moonshot’ bid to cure cancer — a massive government-wide effort that was announced during last month’s State of the Union address…” (Ferris, 2/1).

New York Times: $1 Billion Planned for Cancer ‘Moonshot’
“…The administration will ask for $755 million for cancer-related research in its budget for the 2017 fiscal year, officials said. And the initiative will help oversee $195 million in new funding provided to the National Institutes of Health for the current fiscal year…” (Harris, 2/1).

Reuters: Obama to seek $755 million for cancer ‘moonshot’: White House
“…The money would be spent on developing vaccines, genomic analysis, early cancer detection tests, and cancer immunotherapy and combination therapy research. Rare pediatric cancers will be a specific focus, the White House said…” (Rampton, 2/1).

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UNITAID, IVCC Initiative Aims To Protect 50M People In 16 African Countries From Malaria Through Low-Cost Anti-Mosquito Home Spray

Thomson Reuters Foundation: New $65 mln anti-malaria push to protect 50 mln through affordable home spray
“A new $65 million initiative to boost malaria control and combat resistance to insecticides by improving access to new, low-cost anti-mosquito sprays across Africa was announced on Monday. The initiative by the health agency UNITAID and non-profit group IVCC will be rolled out over four years with a goal of protecting as many as 50 million people in 16 African countries…” (Mis, 2/1).

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370 Health Workers Respond To Northern Uganda Malaria Outbreak; 658 Dead Since July

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Health workers sent to north Uganda as malaria epidemic kills over 650
“Uganda dispatched a team of more than 370 health workers to the northern part of the country on Monday where a malaria epidemic ravaging the region since July has killed about 658 people. Uganda reported an unusual outbreak of malaria in the north of the country in July, which health officials say has affected one million people from a population of about 39 million…” (Lirri, 2/1).

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WSJ. Magazine Profiles Christy Turlington Burns, Her Nonprofit Every Mother Counts

WSJ. Magazine: Christy Turlington Burns: From Supermodel to Activist
“Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns has put her wanderlust in service to fellow mothers through Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit organization she founded in 2010, advocating for women’s health issues spanning the globe…” (Reed, 2/1).

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WHO Calls For Films Showing Smoking To Carry Adult Ratings To Protect Young People

U.N. News Centre: Films with on-screen smoking should carry warnings to protect children — U.N. health agency
“Noting that films showing on-screen smoking have enticed millions of young people around the world into tobacco addiction, the United Nations health agency today called for them to be rated and display warnings to save children from subsequent disability and death…” (2/1).

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Education Program Teaches Life Skills, Contraceptive Options To Kenyan University Students, Lowers STI, Pregnancy Incidence

Thomson Reuters Foundation: From abortions to #condommania: Kenyan students get real about sex
“…[T]he number of young women at the university seeking help for DIY abortions has fallen dramatically, [nurse Catherine] Tweni said, since the introduction of a new sex education club two years ago. Pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections have also dropped, she said, while the number of students coming for contraceptives has risen to 20 to 50 a month from one or two…” (Migiro, 2/2).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss Zika Virus, Response Efforts

The Guardian: The Zika virus is a public health emergency. Here’s what we must do now
Celine Gounder, internist, infectious diseases and public health specialist, and medical journalist

“…If there’s anything we’ve learned from the last three global public health emergencies — polio, H1N1, and Ebola — it’s that hi-tech solutions like new vaccines aren’t fast enough to stop an epidemic. Yes, we must invest in research with a view to the future. But so long as poverty, population growth, and climate change fuel the emergence of new infectious diseases, we will be playing catch up with our hi-tech solutions. We need to address these diseases at the source” (2/1).

Financial Times: Zika virus shows that fear is more contagious than any infection
Peter Sands, senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and chair of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine’s Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future

“…In a media-saturated world, fear is much more contagious than any infection. Fear of infection drives people to change behavior, cancelling holidays and business trips or avoiding imported products. It is this behavioral change rather than the disease itself that determines the scale of the economic effect. … [E]ffective communication of the risks and potential mitigants should be central components of any response. … While containing the spread of Zika is the immediate priority, we also need to break the pattern of responding to each pandemic as it occurs. A more robust framework for protecting humanity from such threats is required. That will involve strengthening public health systems at the national level and more effective global responses led by the WHO…” (2/1).

The Lancet: Zika virus outbreak in the Americas: the need for novel mosquito control methods
Laith Yakobemail, lecturer, and Thomas Walker, lecturer and society fellow, both in the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

“…An important benefit of these environmentally friendly, species-specific approaches [to vector control, such as genetic modification or infection with Wolbachia bacteria,] is the reduced dependence they pose for insecticides — an increasingly important feature of future disease vector control. Moreover, suppressing the mosquito population, or rendering it arbovirus-resistant, holds great potential in the simultaneous control of [Zika, dengue,] chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses. 150 countries presently have A aegypti [mosquitoes] and are vulnerable to future outbreaks with all of these viruses. The costs of implementing these novel technologies in Brazil and across the tropics must be considered in the context of the multifaceted benefits they pose in controlling several emerging infectious diseases” (2/1).

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International Partners Must Accelerate Efforts To End Preventable Maternal, Newborn, Child Deaths

Bangkok Post: Upholding the rights of newborns
Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of the WHO Southeast Asia

“…WHO has been prioritizing ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths in the Southeast Asia Region. … Accelerating interventions to improve maternal and newborn health would require governments to ensure sufficient, sustainable, and equity-focused financing; adequate and skilled human resources; and essential commodities and equipment for maternal and newborn health. Strong health systems are needed to deliver high-quality service … Strong partnerships are needed with communities to reach the unreached women and newborns; and with other related sectors, civil society, and the private sector to meet the new goals of reducing newborn mortality by 2030. … Though countries are making efforts, clearly more needs to be done…” (2/2).

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Global Community Must Invest In Syria's Health Care Workers, System

The Guardian: We must not let Syria’s health service fail
Rola Hallam, medical director for Hand in Hand for Syria, and Donna McKay, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights

“…As world leaders meet this week in London to address the spiraling refugee crisis, stopping the wholesale destruction of Syria’s medical system should be squarely on the agenda. … The international community must jump-start a system to assess and temporarily license qualified Syrian health professionals to care for refugee patients in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Donors … must invest in new medical centers and support existing ones where Syrian medics can serve their own people. They must also invest in the host countries’ medical education programs … so that Syrian students forced to cut short their studies before graduation can complete their health qualifications elsewhere. … Salvaging Syria’s medical system is not only good for Syria; it’s good for the health of the region and the rest of the world too…” (2/2).

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'Safe, Economical, And Effective' Emergency Contraceptives Can Benefit Pakistanis

Huffington Post: Emergency Contraceptive Pills: The misunderstood savior for Pakistan?
Farahnaz Zahidi, writer, editor, media trainer, and communications expert

“…[The Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP)] is a safe, economical, and effective method of contraception. It has very few side-effects and can be used more than once with the consultation of a doctor but should not be used as a regular contraceptive. To gain maximum benefits, people need to know more about what is often called the morning-after pill. Above all, it need not be discussed in hushed tones. Contraception is a careful choice and Pakistanis need to make informed decisions regarding [family planning]. Better to be more informed about the ECP and be safe than sorry” (2/1).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Kaiser Family Foundation Policy Insight, PHR Paper Examine Reproductive Health Challenges For Women Affected By Zika Virus

Kaiser Family Foundation: Zika Virus: The Challenge for Women
In the latest post in the Policy Insights series, Jen Kates, Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of global health & HIV policy, and Josh Michaud, associate director, and Allison Valentine, policy analyst, both with the foundation’s global health policy team, examine how warnings over the rapid emergence of Zika virus in the Americas and its association with a severe birth defect impact women in the region, as some health officials are calling for women to avoid pregnancy even though they have limited reproductive health access in some of the affected countries. They also examine the role of the U.S. government in addressing Zika (2/1).

Physicians for Human Rights: Zika Virus Highlights Limitations to Reproductive Health Policies in Affected Countries
“…PHR released a paper [Monday] outlining priority actions the international community and governments should take to respond to the spread of the Zika virus. ‘Recommendations to avoid pregnancy in countries where governments regularly limit women’s access to reproductive health services are absurd,’ said Marianne Møllmann, PHR’s senior researcher. ‘[Monday’s] WHO emergency meeting should move to implement policies that empower women to protect themselves’…” (2/1).

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Blog Posts Discuss Zika Virus, Including Prioritizing Prevention, Treatment, R&D Efforts

CDC’s “Our Global Voices”: CDC director: What we’re doing about the Zika virus
CDC director Tom Frieden discusses the potential impact of Zika virus on the U.S., as well as U.S. efforts to respond to the virus, writing, “The CDC’s laser focus is protecting the health, safety, and security of Americans; learning more about Zika and fighting it is a top priority” (2/1).

U.N. Dispatch: The WHO Declares Zika Emergency. What Now?
Mark Leon Goldberg, managing editor of U.N. Dispatch, discusses the WHO’s declaration that the Zika virus outbreak in Latin America is a public health emergency of international concern and notes, “The emergency declaration of the WHO kicks into place certain bureaucratic [mechanisms] like increased funding and surveillance …, and processes to streamline international cooperation on studying this disease” (2/1).

Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs”: Research Roundup: Zika edition
Kat Kelley, GHTC’s senior program assistant, discusses efforts to research and develop vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and vector control strategies for Zika virus (2/1).

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition: Zika: 3 Ebola Lessons That Can Make a Difference
Leslie Tisdale, USGLC communications manager, discusses lessons from the Ebola epidemic and their application for other outbreaks, such as Zika. Tisdale writes, “Going forward, we need to mobilize a rapid response, deploy preventative measures, and strengthen American leadership. Given our under-investment in Latin America, now is a critical time to step up, not step back, in our support” (2/1).

Partners In Health: Need to Know: Zika Virus
“[PIH] staff spoke with Dr. Joia Mukherjee, PIH’s chief medical officer and a renowned infectious disease expert, about Zika’s origins, the complications it may cause for pregnant women, and why this virus keeps her up at night…” (1/28).

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U.S. Commits To Strengthening Global Response To Refugee Crises

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: Strengthening The Global Response to Refugee Crises Worldwide
Elizabeth Campbell, senior humanitarian adviser in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, discusses U.S. commitments “to strengthen the global response to refugee crises worldwide. As evidence of the United States’ commitment to this issue, President Obama will host a Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis during high-level week at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2016…” (2/1).

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Global Community Must Commit To Ending Preventable Stillbirths

Global Washington: Ending Preventable Stillbirths — The Next Frontier in Maternal Infant Child Health
Debbie Lester, clinical programs and USA country director for Adara Development, discusses the Ending Preventable Stillbirths (EPS) Series published last month in The Lancet, Adara’s work with the Every Newborn Action Plan, and the global commitment necessary “to ensure high quality care for every woman during pregnancy, labor, and birth…” (2/1).

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IntraHealth International Project Trains HCWs To Screen For Cervical Cancer Among Kenyan Women

IntraHealth International’s “Vitals”: Cervical Cancer Screening Uncovers a Great Need in Kenya
Peter Abwao, a communications and knowledge management officer for the FUNZOKenya Project at IntraHealth International in Kenya, discusses the project’s efforts to “train health workers to screen for cervical cancer among women of reproductive age, particularly those who live with HIV” (2/1).

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February 2016 Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

WHO: Bulletin of the World Health Organization
The February 2016 WHO Bulletin includes news, research, and policy articles on various topics, including kangaroo mother care for newborns, the use of mobile phones in polio eradication, and classifying perinatal deaths (February 2016).

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