KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

New Money Needed To Address Zika, White House Says; Policymakers, Experts Discuss Family Planning Needs In Outbreak Response

The Hill: White House shoots down using Ebola money to fight Zika
“The White House on Friday brushed aside a House Republican proposal to use leftover Ebola funding to fight the Zika virus. ‘The important work that the United States has done to fight Ebola and to protect the American people from Ebola is not done,’ White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday…” (Fabian, 2/19).

International Business Times: Zika Emergency Funding Sparks Debate Over Abortion For Women In Latin America
“…Beyond Capitol Hill, the growing scare over Zika and Obama’s request for emergency funding has touched off yet another debate within policy and public health circles in the U.S. over abortion, only this time it’s about access to the procedure outside the U.S. Meanwhile, women’s health advocates contend that far more important and relevant than debating abortion is providing basic family planning services and information in a region where neither are widely available. ‘The biggest need right now, in the context of Zika, is for women to get the information that they need to make informed decisions in terms of protecting themselves from potential exposure to Zika and access to contraception,’ Jen Kates, the director of global health and HIV policy for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., said…” (Whitman, 2/19).

Reuters: White House, House Republicans spar over Zika, Ebola funding
“…Earnest said that the White House would soon put forward a formal Zika funding request for lawmakers. It will include a plan to redirect some Ebola funds to the Zika fight, but Earnest said new funding was also required…” (Rampton/Rascoe, 2/19).

Link to individual story

Answers On Zika, Microcephaly Link Up To 6 Months Away, WHO, U.S. Officials Say

International Business Times: Zika Outbreak 2016: Proof Of Link Between Zika Virus And Birth Defects May Take 6 Months, WHO Says
“The World Health Organization said Friday that it could take four to six months to prove the link between the Zika virus spreading through the Americas and the birth defect, microcephaly — a condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads…” (Kondalamahanty, 2/20).

New York Times: Proof of Zika’s Role in Birth Defects Still Months Away, WHO Says
“… ‘It will probably be four, five, six months,’ Dr. Bruce Aylward, the organization’s head of emergency response, said at a news conference in Geneva. But he added that the evidence was already so strong that ‘at this time, the virus is considered guilty until proven innocent’…” (McNeil, 2/19).

Reuters: CDC, Brazil start big study to test Zika link to birth defects
“U.S. and Brazilian researchers are heading to João Pessoa in the state of Paraíba on Monday to recruit mothers and babies in one of the biggest government-led studies to understand whether the Zika virus is linked to microcephaly, a rare birth defect…” (Steenhuysen, 2/19).

Reuters: Initial results of U.S.-Brazil studies on Zika mystery expected by May
“Two U.S.-Brazilian studies on whether the Zika virus spreading through the Americas is causing birth defects and other neurological disorders will yield initial results by May, a senior U.S. public health official said on Friday…” (Boadle, 2/19).

Link to individual story

U.S. Official Expresses Concern Over Zika's Possible Impact In Haiti; Colombia Experiencing Higher Incidence Of Zika-Associated Guillain-Barré

Agence France-Presse: ‘Extreme’ U.S. worry about Zika impact in Haiti
“A top U.S. health official expressed ‘extreme concern’ Friday over the potential for Zika to expand throughout Haiti and said the United States is helping the deeply impoverished Caribbean nation prepare. There was ‘extreme concern of Haiti in terms of impact that dengue has there, and of course, the vulnerable population is a challenge,’ said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control…” (2/19).

Los Angeles Times: Worries grow over Zika virus in Colombia
“…Of particular concern are the 3,177 Colombian women who … contracted Zika while pregnant. Although no microcephalic babies linked to Zika have yet been confirmed in Colombia, the fear is that the country could soon see a wave of abnormal births similar to those in Brazil. … Zika infections have also been linked to a rise in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nervous disorder causing partial paralysis that strikes mostly victims over 40. Colombia has seen a 50 percent increase in cases since October…” (Kraul, 2/21).

Washington Post: Zika has been linked to birth defects. Now it may be causing paralysis.
“…The mosquito-borne virus has spread rapidly here and across lowland Colombia, but the city [Turbo] is unusual for the subsequent outbreak of a rare, debilitating disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome, whose precise link to the virus remains unclear. Before Zika’s arrival in Turbo, a mostly Afro-Colombian town of 60,000 set amid vast banana plantations on the country’s north coast, doctors typically saw one case of Guillain-Barré a year, if that…” (Miroff, 2/21).

Link to individual story

WHO Issues Guidance For Blood Supply Collections In Zika-Hit Nations

New York Times: WHO Advises Caution, but Not a Halt, in Blood Collection in Zika-Affected Areas
“The World Health Organization issued recommendations on Friday for safeguarding the blood supply from the Zika virus, but said blood collection might need to continue in some affected areas, despite concerns that the virus may be linked to birth defects and a form of temporary paralysis. The Food and Drug Administration recently advised that United States territories with active Zika transmission…” (Saint Louis, 2/19).

Link to individual story

Climate Change Factors Into Disease Spread Worldwide, UNEP Executive Director Says

The Hill: U.N. links climate change to Zika, Ebola
“…In a speech [last] week, the executive director of the U.N.’s Environment Programme (UNEP) said officials should take a more aggressive stance toward climate change, highlighting studies that show nearly a quarter of premature deaths around the world can be attributed to environmental problems…” (Henry, 2/19).

New York Times: In Zika Epidemic, a Warning on Climate Change
“…Already, climate change is suspected — though not proved — to have been a factor in a string of disease outbreaks afflicting both people and animals. These include the spread of malaria into the highlands of eastern Africa, the rising incidence of Lyme disease in North America, and the spread of a serious livestock ailment called bluetongue into parts of Europe that were once too cold for it to thrive. In interviews, experts noted that no epidemic was ever the result of a single variable…” (Gillis, 2/20).

U.N. News Centre: From asthma to Zika, U.N. tackles links between environment and health
“The list of health conditions that can be linked to environmental pollution and degradation is long and growing, including skin cancer, lung cancer, asthma, lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, malaria, Ebola, and Zika, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). ‘The spread of Zika, just as with Ebola, has sent a strong signal to the international community that there is a need for increased attention to the linkages between environment and health,’ UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said [Thursday]…” (2/19).

Link to individual story

As Aedes Aegypti Spreads Diseases, Mosquito Proves Tough Foe, Researchers Say

PRI: We’ve lost the battle against dengue, is Zika next?
“…[H]ow we have been fighting the battle against dengue could predict our odds of winning the battle against Zika. From the chart above, chances are pretty slim. Although we identified the Aedes aegypti as a dengue vector as early as 1906, the disease has grown from a sporadic and infrequent illness into the world’s most important mosquito-borne viral disease…” (Kuang, 2/19).

Washington Post: How a tiny mosquito became one of the world’s ‘most efficient killers’
“…Thousands of species of mosquitoes inhabit the planet, but few have proved more resilient — or more deadly to humans — than Aedes aegypti. It has fueled a long list of epidemics across the globe. Dengue fever. Yellow fever. Chikungunya. And now, Zika…” (Dennis, 2/19).

Link to individual story

Contraception Becoming More Acceptable Among Some Religious Leaders, Especially For Public Health Reasons

Associated Press: Philippine bishops back pope’s remarks on Zika contraception
“Despite their staunch opposition to contraceptives, Philippine Roman Catholic bishops expressed their full support Saturday to Pope Francis’ remarks suggesting artificial contraception can be used by women threatened by the Zika virus…” (Gomez, 2/20).

Los Angeles Times: Pope Francis isn’t the only religious leader to give a surprising boost to contraception
“…In the U.S., many religious institutions are locked in an acrimonious fight with the federal government over birth control that is set to go before the Supreme Court next month. Elsewhere, by contrast, faith-based groups are increasingly linking arms with governments and health officials in a global effort to expand access to birth control…” (Levey, 2/19).

Wall Street Journal: Pope Urges More Reliance on Individual Conscience
“The Catholic Church prohibits both contraception and abortion. But by putting them on very different moral planes this week, Pope Francis cracked the door to a more-open approach on artificial birth control — and to a greater emphasis on the role of individual conscience. The question of when and how a Catholic may follow his or her own conscience in matters of sexual and medical ethics has implications far beyond contraception…” (Rocca, 2/19).

Link to individual story

Some Military, Security Activities Can Be Considered Development Aid, OECD's DAC Concludes

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Development aid revised to include some military and security activity — OECD
“The world’s biggest donors agreed on Friday to expand the definition of development aid to include limited forms of counter-terrorism measures and military activities or training, a move campaigners said could divert scarce funds away from the poorest people. Funding towards activities aimed at preventing violent extremism can now be reported as development aid, provided they are ‘are led by donor countries and their primary purpose is developmental,’ the Development Assistance Committee, a group that oversees what can be counted as aid, said in a statement…” (Zweynert, 1/19).

Link to individual story

Global Innovation Fund Announces First Investments In Development Programs For Low-, Lower-Middle Income Nations

Devex: Global Innovation Fund’s first investments shed light on mission
“The Global Innovation Fund announced its first eight grant and equity investments last week, and as starts its next chapter, it is reflecting on the process of getting started and looking ahead to how it will streamline operations. … The first eight awards — five grants, two equity investments, and one convertible debt investment — reflect GIF’s wide-reaching mandate ‘to solve any major development problem in low- or lower-middle-income countries,’ and range from a family planning mass media campaign in Burkina Faso to an Uber-like motorbike service in Uganda to a payment transfer platform…” (Anders, 2/19).

Link to individual story

Cyclone Winston Hits Fiji, Killing At Least 21, Spawning Health Concerns

Reuters: Death toll from Fiji cyclone mounts amid health crisis fears
“Fiji began a massive cleanup on Monday after one of the most powerful storms recorded in the southern hemisphere tore through the Pacific island nation, killing 21 people, flattening remote villages, and cutting off communications. Aid agencies warned of a widespread health crisis, particularly in low-lying areas where thousands of Fiji’s 900,000 people live in tin shacks, after crops were wiped out and fresh water supplies blocked…” (Wardell/Packham, 2/22).

Link to individual story

India To Introduce Free Injectable Contraceptives As Government-Supported Mode Of Family Planning

New York Times: India to Change Its Decades-Old Reliance on Female Sterilization
“…For decades, India has relied on female sterilization as its primary mode of contraception, funding about four million tubal ligations every year, more than any other country. This year, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take a major step toward modernizing that system, introducing injectable contraceptives free of charge in government facilities. The World Health Organization recommends their use without restriction for women of childbearing age…” (Barry/Duggar, 2/20).

Link to individual story

Russian AIDS Official Calls For Increased Efforts To Prevent HIV Infections, Deaths

The Guardian: Sex, syringes, and the HIV epidemic Russia can no longer ignore
“…Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the federal AIDS center, this week told journalists that more than 27,500 Russians with HIV had died in 2015, a 13 percent increase on 2014. At least half of those died from AIDS, he later confided, so their deaths could have been prevented. HIV is spreading with increasing speed, with about 95,000 new cases in 2015 compared with 90,000 in 2014, most of them from drug use and heterosexual sex. … ‘The tempo of growth is not slowing down, it’s high, and we need to strengthen prophylactic measures,’ Pokrovsky said. ‘In five years it will double, up to three million people by 2020’…” (Luhn, 2/19).

Link to individual story

2 MSF Staff, Others Killed In Fighting In South Sudan Refugee Camp; Violence Exacerbating Country's Food Insecurity

The Guardian: South Sudan: MSF workers among 18 people dead in violence at U.N. camp
“At least 18 people, including two workers from the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have been killed in South Sudan after fighting erupted at a U.N. compound where almost 50,000 civilians are sheltering from the country’s civil war…” (Jones, 2/19).

IRIN: Extreme hunger in South Sudan
“The leading food security consortium, the IPC Global Partnership, says there is ‘a really dire, perhaps borderline famine situation’ in parts of Unity State in South Sudan. The situation is likely to deteriorate, it states. However, a lack of information makes it impossible to say whether the situation meets the IPC’s technical definition of a famine — an important, and emotive, signal. Given large-scale conflict and displacement, and underlying fragility, the possibility has been under review for months…” (Parker, 2/20).

Link to individual story

Improving Access To Inexpensive Cryptococcal Meningitis Test Could Help Reduce Deaths Among People With HIV, Officials Say

NPR: A $2 Test Might Have Helped This Man With HIV Avoid Daily Spinal Taps
“…A so-called opportunistic infection, [cryptococcal meningitis] is a threat primarily to those with HIV who lack access to the antiretroviral therapy that can keep the virus in check. … In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, crypto annually kills nearly as many people in sub-Saharan Africa as tuberculosis — and more in a month, every month, than the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Yet experts say it may also be the easiest to tackle, especially with the advent of a new rapid test called the Cryptococcal Antigen Lateral Flow Assay, or CrAg LFA…” (Adams, 2/21).

Link to individual story

Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss Various Aspects Of Zika Outbreak Response

The Conversation: Using birth control to combat Zika virus could affect future generations
Simon Beard, research fellow in philosophy at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute

“…While delaying pregnancy may be relatively costless for individuals, if many people simultaneously decide to delay conception this will have significant demographic implications. … A short-term rise in the birth rate [following the outbreak] would put maternal services in these countries under severe strain and could make these problems considerably worse. … [T]o many philosophers the harm, if any, that we do when we create a child who will be worse off through disability is much less important than that which we do when we make an already existing child worse off. … So the moral problems with delaying pregnancy may be far greater than they seem. … [T]he view that delaying pregnancy is an easy or costless solution only tells one side of the story” (2/19).

Financial Times: GM mosquitoes hold the key in the battle against Zika
Michael Bonsall, professor of mathematical biology at the University of Oxford

“…In December, the House of Lords science and technology committee published a report on the science of genetically modified insects. It recommended that greater attention be paid to these new approaches as additional tools in the fight against infectious diseases such as Zika. The report placed particular emphasis on the ‘biosafety’ and ethical questions such approaches raise. But these should not be allowed to get in the way of a rapid and effective response to the Zika outbreak. In that battle, biotechnological innovation, including the development of genetically modified mosquitoes, has a central role to play” (2/19).

Los Angeles Times: Is the call for Zika virus abortions the new eugenics?
Charles C. Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University

“…The rush to advocate for abortion as a response to the Zika virus is grounded in ignorance and expedience. If [abortion-rights] organizations were actually interested in helping people with Zika — rather than exploiting the outbreak for a broader agenda — they would have held their fire until we know more. They also would have done more to wrestle with the views of the disability-rights community. Instead of arrogantly insisting that developing nations must change their laws to suit someone else’s ideology, abortion proponents and the media would be better served by taking a critical look at the dark tendency here and elsewhere to turn to eugenics as a solution to a problem like Zika” (2/19).

The Guardian: If condoms are OK for Zika, why not AIDS, Pope Francis?
Barbara Ellen, columnist for the Observer

“…While the response to Zika is encouraging, doesn’t it also serve as a disturbing contrast to the Vatican’s continuing refusal to condone condoms as protection in AIDS-afflicted Africa? Why is ‘permission’ being granted to safeguard against one virus, Zika, but not against HIV and AIDS? … [N]ow that Zika has been addressed, surely the Catholic church can’t continue to justify this kind of oblique, unhelpful stance. Where AIDS is concerned, what’s stopping the Vatican … once and for all untying the issue of conception from protection, and acknowledging the entirely separate role of condoms in preventing the spread of disease …?” (2/20).

NPR: When Fear Becomes An Unintended Public Health Problem
Doug Levy, former chief communications officer of Columbia University Medical Center and adviser to public health and other officials on crisis communications

“With the Zika virus in the daily headlines, public health authorities should be looking carefully at how they communicate about this latest emerging infectious disease. People need to be alerted, not alarmed. … Errors in communications planning, preparation, and practice contributed to unfounded hysteria about Ebola. … Getting accurate information out to more people in advance of an outbreak could have made a difference. … Whether the public stays calm remains to be seen. Just as public health professionals keep watch for the next emerging disease, they also must anticipate the next source of fear and be ready to respond with more than just talking head experts…” (2/19).

Dallas Morning News: Zachary Thompson and Christopher Perkins: Let’s all act now to defuse the Zika threat in North Texas
Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, and Christopher Perkins, Dallas County medical director

“…Dallas County Health and Human Services was one of the first local health departments in the nation to test for Zika virus. Testing locally results in a faster turnaround and more effective response. This, in turn, will help us control a potential public health crisis. We will continue to communicate with our local, state, and federal partners to make sure we have the most current information and share it widely with Dallas County residents, the medical community, and our response partners. In cooperation with all of our municipalities and residents, we can manage the threat of Zika virus in Dallas County” (2/19).

Link to individual story

Ending Vaccine-Preventable Deaths Requires High Immunization Coverage, Strong Health Systems, Sustainable Programs

Huffington Post: Walking the Talk: Three Keys to Ending Vaccine-Preventable Deaths
Katrin DeCamp, web manager and senior communications specialist, and Robert Steinglass, immunization team leader, both at USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program

“At month’s end, African health and finance ministers will meet in Ethiopia for the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa. … [H]ow can we be sure what’s decided at the conference is carried forward? … [W]e must keep three things in mind: … To dramatically reduce child mortality, we must achieve high and equitable coverage year after year. … A robust routine immunization system functioning within the health system is required to achieve and sustain our ambitious goals [for ending vaccine-preventable deaths]. … [I]mmunization programs must be designed from the start and implemented with sustainability in mind…” (2/19).

Link to individual story

Gates Foundation To Expand Investments In Reducing Global Burden Of Typhoid

Devex: Tackling the silent killers of children
Anita Zaidi, director of the Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases (EDD) program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“…Based on our understanding of the global burden of typhoid and the public health threat, the [Gates Foundation] has made a recent decision to expand investments in typhoid, as part of our strategy to reduce the impact of enteric infections on the most impoverished. We will focus on the development of typhoid conjugate vaccines [TCVs], given that TCVs have potential to overcome programmatic barriers faced by older typhoid vaccines, which are not targeted for eliciting immunity in young children. Additional key areas of work will include improving surveillance systems to accurately measure disease burden, and developing a multi-sectoral intervention toolkit that incorporates both vaccine and WASH interventions against typhoid…” (2/19).

Link to individual story

Landmark Case Could Help Advance Women's Health Care Rights In Uganda

The Conversation: How the death of two Ugandan mothers is helping entrench the right to health care
Moses Mulumba, executive director at the Center for Health, Human Rights & Development and lecturer at Ugandan Christian University

“…In what has turned into a landmark case [to hold the Ugandan government accountable for the deaths of two Ugandan women], the [Center for Health, Human Rights & Development] has argued that failing to provide essential maternal health commodities in government health facilities is an infringement on women’s rights. The rights to life as well as health are guaranteed under [Uganda’s] constitution as well as international human rights instruments the government has signed up to. … The case has contributed to jurisprudence to help people realize their social economic rights in Uganda. But it has also catalyzed improvements in health service provision. … Most importantly, civil society organizations are now, more than ever, alert to demanding women’s health care rights” (2/21).

Link to individual story

End Of AIDS Possible With Scientific Advances, Innovative Research

Boston Globe: New tools to fight AIDS
Kenneth H. Mayer, co-chair and medical research director of the Fenway Institute at Fenway Health

“…[W]e require better tools to fight AIDS. The need for new preventive technologies, in particular, is acute. That is why there is so much excitement around this year’s annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which will convene in Boston Feb. 22-25. We are going to learn more about two emerging tools to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic: prevention medicines that are easy to use and protect those who are HIV negative from infection, and advances in vaccine research. … As HIV vaccine research progresses, the use of preventive antiretroviral medications delivered via daily pills, bimonthly injections, and vaginal rings hold the potential to dramatically reduce HIV transmission. The end of AIDS is possible, we just need to keep up the fight and continue to support innovative research” (2/20).

Link to individual story

From the Global Health Policy Community

Blog Post Examines USAID-Supported Efforts To Implement Electronic Medical Records Systems In LMICs

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: How attention to privacy supports continuity of care in Swaziland: Confidential, complete HIV care through better health information systems
In a guest post, Sam Wambugu, a senior health informatics specialist at MEASURE Evaluation, discusses his organization’s efforts to implement digital health systems in Swaziland. “MEASURE Evaluation is using the success of the processes used in Swaziland as a foundation for discussions to implement such processes in other low- and middle-income countries supported by USAID,” he notes (2/22).

Link to individual story

KFF Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

www.kff.org | Email Alerts: kff.org/email | facebook.com/KFF | twitter.com/kff

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.