The Latest: Health ministers probing microcephaly in Brazil

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The Latest: Health ministers probing microcephaly in Brazil

PARIS (AP) – The Latest on the mosquito-born Zika virus, which is linked to brain deformities in babies (all times local): 2:00 a.m. The head of the Pan American Health Organization says more resources are needed quickly if the region is to fight the Zika outbreak. Carissa Etienne told health ministers from Latin America holding an emergency meeting in Uruguay on Wednesday that every nation in the region needs to devote more money to expand mosquito control campaigns, bolster health services and educate the public on the dangers. Etienne says governments also must do more to track the spread of Zika as well as suspected complications from the virus, including microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Brazilian researchers suspect the explosive spread of Zika is tied to an increase in microcephaly and Guillain-Barre cases, though scientists have not yet proven a link. Etienne also told the ministers they should act now even though there is not yet a complete understanding of Zika. In her words: “One fact of which we are unequivocally sure is that the Zika virus_like dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses_is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The most effective control measures are the prevention of mosquito bites and the reduction of mosquito populations.” 11:50 p.m. Brazil’s president says Zika virus has gone from a “distant nightmare” to a “real threat” against the Brazilian people. In a pre-recorded, prime time television address Wednesday, Dilma Rousseff calls on citizens to unite to combat the mosquito that transmits the virus, which researchers in Brazil have linked to a rare birth defect. She describes concrete measures people can take to eliminate the mosquito’s breeding grounds in their homes. She also has “words of comfort” for the women who have given birth to babies with the birth defect, microcephaly, saying: “We will do everything, absolutely everything, to protect you.” She says the government is mobilizing to develop a vaccine but insists that until it’s ready, the best course of action remains to prevent the mosquito from breeding. 11:15 p.m. The agency responsible for most of Canada’s blood supply says people who have traveled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe will be ineligible to give blood for 21 days after their return. Canadian Blood Services says it is implementing the waiting period to mitigate the risk of the Zika virus entering the Canadian blood supply. In a release Wednesday, the agency said the new waiting period is being implemented across the country and will take full effect in all of its clinics starting on Feb. 5. Quebec’s blood operator, Hema-Quebec, will be implementing the same change as of this Sunday. Canadian Blood Services says the 21-day period ensures enough time has passed for the virus to be eliminated from a person’s bloodstream, but it is asking people to postpone donation for at least a month after returning from travel outside the specified zones. “This new temporary deferral period will safeguard Canada’s blood supply against the Zika virus, and will also help us protect against other similar mosquito-borne viruses,” Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer for Canadian Blood Services, said in a statement. 11:05 p.m. International health officials tell The Associated Press that Brazil has yet to share enough samples and disease data needed to answer the most worrying question about the Zika outbreak: whether the virus is actually responsible for the increase in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads in Brazil. The lack of data is frustrating efforts to develop diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines. Laboratories in the United States and Europe are relying on samples from previous outbreaks. Scientists say having so little to work with is hampering their ability to track the virus’ evolution. One major problem appears to be Brazilian law. At the moment, it is technically illegal for Brazilian researchers and institutes to share genetic material including blood samples containing Zika and other viruses. 10:35 p.m. A U.S. travel alert has been issued for two more destinations because of the Zika virus. Health officials Wednesday added Jamaica and Tonga in the South Pacific to the list of places with outbreaks where travelers should protect themselves against the mosquito-borne virus. There are now 30 travel destinations on the list, most of them in Latin America or the Caribbean. The government recommends that pregnant women postpone trips to those destinations because of a suspected link between the virus and a birth defect, seen mostly in Brazil. 10:15 p.m. Member countries of the Central American Integration System have agreed to implement a regional action plan to fight the Zika virus in the coming days. Salvadoran Public Health Minister Violeta Menjivar says the foreign and health ministers of Central American countries and the Dominican Republic agreed to t…
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On February 3, 2016

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