Via CIDRAP, Lisa Schnirring writes: WHO officials get firsthand Zika view in Brazil, Colombia. Excerpt:
Leaders from the World Health Organization (WHO) and its Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) office continued their mission today to assess Brazil's response to the Zika virus outbreak, as the country's health ministry reported 360 more suspected microcephaly cases.
In US developments, two congressional committees took up Zika discussions, asking about what response steps are under way and what level of funding is needed.
Chan weighs in from Brazil
At a media briefing today at the Fiocruz Institute in Rio de Janiero, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, thanked Brazilian authorities for providing global health officials with a firsthand look at the outbreak and response and pledged more international help in battling the disease.
In a separate briefing yesterday, she said, "This will be a long journey but government commitment is commendable and we are here to support them so we can embark on this journey together. Based on what I have seen today and what I've heard, the mosquito is difficult but it cannot beat Brazil."
As part of the mission, Chan and her WHO and PAHO colleagues met with Brazil's president and its ministry officials and talked to researchers.
Brazil adds to microcephaly total
Brazil's health ministry today said in its regular update that 360 more suspected microcephaly cases have been reported, while 113 earlier ones have been ruled out, according to a statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news message board. The condition involves infants who have smaller-than-normal heads and underdeveloped brains.
According to the ministry's latest numbers, officials are still investigating 4,107 suspected microcephaly cases. Since its last update a week ago the health ministry has confirmed 75 more cases, raising that total to 583.
Over the course of the outbreak a total of 5,640 suspected cases have been reported, with 950 ruled out.
Studies have not definitively linked Zika virus to microcephaly, but the body of evidence is growing. A case-control study was recently launched in some of Brazil's hardest-hit areas to help clarify the suspected link.
PAHO mission in Colombia
Meanwhile, representatives from PAHO, along with other outside experts, are on the ground in Colombia this week on a technical mission to assess that country's response efforts. According to PAHO statement yesterday, Colombia has reported about 37,000 Zika virus infections, 6,300 of them in pregnant women.