Facts, and Opinions, that matter: from Zika to America’s “Arab Spring”

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” today.

The WHO cited a suspected, though not yet scientifically proven, link between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly, the way the disease is spreading to vulnerable people, and the lack of vaccines and tests were also given as reasons.

Zika is spread by common mosquitoes, and is thought to have arrived in the Americas two years ago from areas of Africa where it’s endemic. It’s suspected to be the culprit behind  3,700 babies reportedly born with abnormally small heads —  microcephaly — in Brazil, the country hardest  hit in the Americas.

Said WHO, “A coordinated international response is needed to improve surveillance, the detection of infections, congenital malformations, and neurological complications, to intensify the control of mosquito populations, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy.

The first priority is control of mosquito populations and preventing mosquito bites in people at risk, especially pregnant women, said the organization.

Read three pieces on F&O that put the Zika emergency in context:

Did health agencies fumble Zika response? By Paulo Prada

It took months for Brazil’s health ministry to recognize the Zika virus had arrived. And so far, the World Health Organization’s hesitant response to the  outbreak –which has created the worst global health scare since Ebola –says much about the difficulties that the WHO and other health authorities face in combating unexpected public health threats. … go to the story

Love in the time of Zika

Where did Zika virus come from, and why is it in Brazil? By Amy Y Vittor

Urbanization, changing climate, air travel and transportation, and waxing and waning control efforts that are at the mercy of economic and political factors have led to these mosquitoes spreading to new areas and coming back in areas where they had previously been eradicated.  … go to the story.

Love in the time of Zika. By Beverley Paterson

Love, sex and babies are the foundation of human existence. Without them the human race ceases to exist. Zika, a virus that few people had heard of a month ago, has suddenly disrupted this normal course of events.  …go to the story.

F&O’s new works this week also include:

Dawn at the scientific base of Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway October 14, 2015. A Norwegian chain of islands just 1,200 km (750 miles) from the North Pole is trying to promote new technologies, tourism and scientific research in a shift from high-polluting coal mining that has been a backbone of the remote economy for decades. Norway suspended most coal mining on the Svalbard archipelago last year because of the high costs, and is looking for alternative jobs for about 2,200 inhabitants on islands where polar bears roam. Part of the answer may be to boost science: in Ny-Alesund, the world's most northerly permanent non-military settlement, scientists from 11 nations including Norway, Germany, France, Britain, India and South Korea study issues such as climate change. The presence of Norway, a NATO member, also gives the alliance a strategic foothold in the far north, of increasing importance after neighbouring Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014. REUTERS/Anna FilipovaPICTURE 03 OF 19 - SEARCH "SVALBARD FILIPOVA" FOR ALL IMAGES

REUTERS/Anna Filipova

Snow, science, solitude: Ny-Alesund, Norway

The Islamic State is a mere shadow of the Assassins’ Caliphate
JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column

America’s ‘Arab Spring’
JIM MCNIVEN, Thoughtlines column

Newspapers their own worst enemy in battle to survive
TOM REGAN, Summoning Orenda Column

Visit  F&O’s Contents page for our recent works, published Saturdays.


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