GENEVA/LONDON — The mosquito-borne Zika linked, which has been linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, causing Australia to issue new travel advice.
Zika has not yet been reported in the continental United States, although a woman who fell ill with the virus in Brazil later gave birth to a brain-damaged baby in Hawaii.
Brazil’s Health Ministry said in November that Zika was linked to a foetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains.
Brazil has reported 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly, the WHO said last Friday, more than 30 times more than in any year since 2010 and equivalent to 1 to 2 per cent of all newborns in the state of Pernambuco, one of the worst-hit areas.
New advice issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Monday night listed 22 countries of concern, including Pacific neighbour Samoa.
The advice said Samoa was the only country in the region with an ongoing outbreak after previous incidences on Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia, and French Polynesia.
The Zika outbreak comes hard on the heels of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, demonstrating once again how little-understood diseases can rapidly emerge as global threats.
“We’ve got no drugs and we’ve got no vaccines. It’s a case of deja vu because that’s exactly what we were saying with Ebola,” Trudie Lang, a professor of global health at the University of Oxford, said.
“It’s really important to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.”
The virus is not expected to be a problem in Canada and Chile due to the absence of the type of mosquitoes that carry the virus in those countries.
Large drug-makers’ investments in tropical disease vaccines with uncertain commercial prospects have so far been patchy, prompting health experts to call for a new system of incentives following the Ebola experience.
“We need to have some kind of a plan that makes (companies) feel there is a sustainable solution and not just a one-shot deal, over and over again,” said Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, last week.
Urinary, respiratory tract infections may double stroke risk
NEW YORK — People who are suffering from urinary or respiratory tract infections may face nearly double the risk of heart attacks and strokes than obesity, researchers have warned.
The study — led by a researcher of Indian origin — found that if the frequency of these common infections causing hospitalisation continues for a longer period it may even lead to death.
Patients diagnosed with any one of these common infections were three times more likely to die than those without prior infection after developing heart disease, and almost twice as likely to die if they had a stroke.
“Our figures suggest that those who are admitted to hospital with a respiratory or urinary tract infection are 40 per cent more likely to suffer a subsequent heart attack, and 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke, than patients who have had no such infection, and are considerably less likely to survive from these conditions,” Rahul Potluri, researcher at Britain’s Aston University, said in a statement.
The effects of the common infections were of similar magnitude among the people suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol, researchers said.
“It is notable that infection appears to confer as much, if not more, of a risk for future heart disease and stroke as very well established risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” Potluri added.
Researchers conducted the study over 34,027 patients who had been admitted with a urinary or respiratory tract infection with an age and sex-matched control group without infection.
Factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, obesity and tobacco use, as well as medical conditions including excess cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation were also taken into account.Follow @gorkhapost