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Malaysia braces for more Zika infections

Health authorities in Malaysia have warned of an increase in Zika cases after the Southeast Asian country reported its first local infection. Neighboring Singapore, meanwhile, has seen a surge in new infections. Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said Sunday that new cases were bound to emerge now that Zika had entered communities. The warning came a day after authorities confirmed the death of a 61-year-old Zika patient in the eastern state of Sabah in Borneo. Health officials said the man was the first patient to contract the virus locally, but that heart complications, rather than Zika, had caused his death. Subramaniam said authorities were working to trace the man's movements to determine other possible sources of infection. "This patient has not been to any other country where a large number of cases had been reported," the minister said on his Facebook page. "This means that this person contracted the disease locally. "It suggests that there are other infected people in the community who are potential sources of infection," Subramaniam added. The 61-year-old was only the country's second confirmed Zika case. The first reported patient, a 58-year-old woman, was infected after traveling to neighboring Singapore last week. Malaysian outbreak in the cards The Zika virus, mainly transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, spread rapidly through a number of Latin American countries in 2015, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency. Cases have since emerged in the US, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, but Brazil remains the hardest hit. Although Zika causes no symptoms in most people, it is considered particularly dangerous for pregnant women. The virus has been shown to cause microcephaly - a birth defect associated with abnormally small brains and heads in new born babies - as well as neurological disorders in some adults. Health authorities in Malaysia raised concerns about Zika after Singapore reported last week that it had more than 200 cases of the virus. Fight against dengue Malaysia's health system has already been stretched thin by dengue fever, which is also spread by the Aedes mosquito and can be fatal. Since the beginning of last year, the virus has infected almost 200,000 people and killed more than 500 in the Southeast Asian country. Amar Singh, head of the pediatric department at Malaysia's Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, warned that this was one reason why Malaysia faced a much tougher struggle against Zika than its smaller neighbor. "Zika will spread even faster in Malaysia than Singapore because our Aedes volume is so much higher and the breeding grounds are enormous," he said. Malaysia, home to almost 30 million people, has boosted its efforts to screen travelers from abroad and increased insecticide spraying to kill mosquitoes. Health Minister Subramaniam on Sunday also urged Malaysians to clean up areas that could serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Health authorities in Malaysia have warned of an increase in Zika cases after the Southeast Asian country reported its first local infection. Neighboring Singapore, meanwhile, has seen a surge in new infections. Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam said Sunday that new cases were bound to emerge now that Zika had entered communities. The warning came a day after authorities confirmed the ... Read More »

Zika exacerbated by ‘massive policy failure,’ says WHO chief

The head of the UN's public health body has blamed inadequate mosquito control policy for the proliferation of the virus. Europe is at risk of a Zika outbreak, according to the WHO's latest assessment. WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan on Monday blamed "massive policy failure" for the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika across many parts of North and South America. "The spread of Zika, the resurgence of dengue and the emerging threat from chikungunya are the price being paid for a massive policy failure that dropped the ball on mosquito control in the 1970s," Chan said during her speech to the 69th World Health Assembly. The WHO chief noted that the "failure to provide universal access to sexual and family planning services" revealed an "extreme consequence" of the Zika virus outbreak. "The rapidly evolving outbreak of Zika warns us that an old disease that slumbered for six decades in Africa and Asia can suddenly wake up on a new continent to cause a global health emergency," Chan added. In April, US officials announced that that there was a likely link between Zika and a rise in newborns with microcephaly, a rare condition resulting in a smaller head than normal. The WHO has investigated the link between the virus and the medical condition. More than 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika in Brazil, with over 1,000 cases of microcephaly registered since last year, according to AFP news agency. The mosquito-borne virus has also been reported in several countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, including Colombia, Haiti and Mexico. Europe alert Earlier this month, the WHO officials warned "there is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European region." The UN's public health body said an outbreak was more likely in countries where Aedes mosquitoes are present. "With this risk assessment, we at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk," said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's regional director for Europe. "We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak," added Jakab.

The head of the UN’s public health body has blamed inadequate mosquito control policy for the proliferation of the virus. Europe is at risk of a Zika outbreak, according to the WHO’s latest assessment. WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan on Monday blamed “massive policy failure” for the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika across many parts of North and South America. ... Read More »

WHO launches worldwide effort to completely eliminate polio

Officials hope a coordinated effort to launch a new vaccine worldwide will finally eliminate the polio virus. But going from a handful of cases to absolute zero is more difficult than it sounds, and will cost billions. More than 150 countries and territories launched a new effort on Sunday that health experts hope will lead to the complete eradication of the polio virus within the next year or two. Polio cases are currently just a fraction of the 1 percent of cases known in 1988, when 350,000 cases were recorded in 125 countries around the world. But eliminating the last strands of the virus could prove tricky, in part because it involves a well-synchronized switching of vaccines across the globe - and that starts today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The switch needs to be coordinated to prevent outbreaks in places where the old vaccine is no longer being used. The changeover is due to be completed by May 1. Thousands of monitors will be deployed around the world to confirm that the problem vaccine is no longer in use, according to the WHO. The old (trivalent) vaccine is geared to inoculate people from three strands of the virus. But the second strand has already been successfully eliminated in nature and now only exists through the vaccine. This is now the cause of most vaccine-caused infections, as it can gestate in the gut and be passed on to others via fecal-contaminated water. Wild polio The wild version of the virus now exists only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The new (bivalent) vaccine is designed to inoculate recipients from only two strands (one and three) of the virus. There have only been 12 cases worldwide this year, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, so the prospect of spending $5.5 billion (4.9 billion euros - the cost estimated by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative) to eliminate polio may seem exorbitant. But Michel Zaffran, the WHO's director of polio eradication, said even more money will need to be spent to keep the disease from coming back. "Taking our foot off the pedal now could mean polio will within a few years spread straight back into large parts of the world and create 100,000 or 200,000 cases," Zaffran said. "The job has not been done and will not be done until we have fully eradicated the virus." This is not the first time health officials have come close to eliminating the virus only to suffer setbacks. The GPEI was set up in 1988 with the aim of eliminating the virus by the year 2000. That effort failed but experts say the effort is worth the cost of eliminating the virus once and for all.

Officials hope a coordinated effort to launch a new vaccine worldwide will finally eliminate the polio virus. But going from a handful of cases to absolute zero is more difficult than it sounds, and will cost billions. More than 150 countries and territories launched a new effort on Sunday that health experts hope will lead to the complete eradication of ... Read More »

UN calls for better birth control access to avoid Zika defects

The UN has urged Zika-stricken countries to give women better access to birth control and abortions to slow the virus' spread. The WHO called for $25 million to fight the virus amid fears 4 million could become infected. Amid growing concern about the Zika virus, which is thought to be linked to babies born with abnormally small heads, the UN Human Rights office called on Latin and South American countries to stop restricting access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion. The Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights said it is worried pregnant women aren't able to access accurate information and medical options after contracting the virus, which is spread through mosquito bites and possibly through sex. "We are asking those governments to go back and change those laws," said UN OHCRH spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly, "because how can they ask those women to become pregnant but not offer them information that is available and the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?" Pouilly said in a region where sexual violence is rampant, women must have the option of safe and legal abortion services. In most of South America, abortion is either illegal or restricted to cases of rape, where the mother's life is threatened or when there are other severe health issues. Outbreak spreading Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus to be global emergency after it spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas. WHO officials said on Friday they would seek $25 million for a six-month program to fight the virus amid fears of up to 4 million cases. Although Zika normally causes no or only mild symptoms, the link to birth defects has strengthened the case for coordinated international action. On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the suspected link between Zika and a birth defect known as microcephaly appears "stronger and stronger." As well as abnormally small heads, babies with microcephaly are born with an underdeveloped brain. Condoms advised Separately, US health officials warned men who traveled to areas most affected by the virus to use condoms if they have sex with a pregnant woman. The guidance suggested abstinence as an alternative protection measure. Paulo Gadelha, president of the Fiocruz Research Institute, said at a news conference that scientists have found live samples of the virus in saliva and urine samples, but called for further study and said it was not clear which bodily fluids could transmit the virus. He said pregnant women should avoid kissing people other than a regular partner or sharing cutlery, glasses and plates with people who have symptoms of the virus. The advice comes as Brazil's Carnival season got underway on Friday. The celebrations include massive street parties where it is common for people to kiss strangers. Also on Friday, Germany said it had 15 known cases of the Zika virus, a spokesman for the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine told the dpa news agency.

The UN has urged Zika-stricken countries to give women better access to birth control and abortions to slow the virus’ spread. The WHO called for $25 million to fight the virus amid fears 4 million could become infected. Amid growing concern about the Zika virus, which is thought to be linked to babies born with abnormally small heads, the UN ... Read More »

US reports Zika infection through sex

Health officials in Texas have reported a case of the Zika virus being transmitted through sexual contact, and not a mosquito bite. The infected person is said to have acquired it from someone who traveled to Venezuela. Local health officials in Dallas on Tuesday reported a case of the Zika virus being sexually transmitted, heightening fears of the spread of the mosquito-born virus. It comes a day after the World Health Organization declared Zika an international public health emergency. "The patient was infected with the virus after having sexual contact with an ill individual who returned from a country where Zika virus was present," a statement from Dallas County Health and Human Services said. It later said on Twitter the country was Venezuela. The county said it had received confirmation of the case from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A CDC spokesman confirmed the results for a Zika infection but said local officials investigated the mode of transmission. Authorities said there were no reports of the virus being locally transmitted by mosquitoes. Sexual transmission not proven Only one possible person-to-person case of sexual transmission has been reported internationally. But health officials have said more evidence is needed to confirm whether Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact. The WHO has said the virusis spreading rapidly in the Americas and could infect 4 million people. A global response unit has been launched to fight the virus. Caution urged for women The virus has been linked to microcephaly, in which babies have abnormally small heads and improperly developed brains. Researchers believe that if a pregnant woman is bitten by an infected mosquito, particularly in the first trimester, she faces a higher risk of having a child with birth defects. The virus has now spread to 26 countries and territories including Brazil, which is the country hardest hit, with 3,700 suspected cases of microcephaly that may be linked to Zika. Brazilian authorities have vowed to proceed with the 2016 Olympics despite the health scare. Ireland reports first cases The first Irish cases of the virus were detected in two people with a history of traveling to an affected country, the country's Health Service Executive said on Tuesday. The two individuals are unrelated and neither is at risk due to pregnancy. They've been described as currently well and fully recovered. Meanwhile, Nicaragua confirmed its first two cases in pregnant women on Tuesday and Chile reported its first case of the virus. The race is on to find a vaccine to prevent the virus taking hold. There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika, which is in the same family of viruses as dengue fever. However, Germany has developed the first test for Zika.

Health officials in Texas have reported a case of the Zika virus being transmitted through sexual contact, and not a mosquito bite. The infected person is said to have acquired it from someone who traveled to Venezuela. Local health officials in Dallas on Tuesday reported a case of the Zika virus being sexually transmitted, heightening fears of the spread of ... Read More »

Two US residents test positive for Zika virus

Two US residents, both of whom recently traveled abroad, have tested positive for the tropical-borne Zika virus. The virus is causing alarm in a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Officials in Virginia and Arkansas confirmed the test results on Tuesday. In both cases officials declined to identify exactly where they may have contracted the disease. However, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr Marissa Levine said the Virginia resident traveled to a country where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing. She added the person posed no risk to others, as it is not mosquito season in Virginia. "Zika virus is acquired through the bite of an infected mosquito," Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine said in a statement. Zika is generally considered a milder form of other mosquito borne illnesses such as dengue fever. But Brazil, has seen a spike in Zika cases at the same time it has seen dramatic rise in new born babies suffering a rare birth defect. Not scientifically proven It has yet to be scientifically proven but the suspicion is that pregnant women infected with the Zika virus are giving birth to babies afflicted with microcephaly - that is, babies with unusually small heads who may suffer brain damage as a result. The virus has surged in Brazil, where officials have simultaneously seen an increase in birth defects. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out a list of Latin American and Carribean countries with confirmed cases of Zika, and recommends that pregnant women consider postponing travel there. The 22 countries affected are, in Latin America: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela. In the Caribbean: Barbados, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, St. Martin and Puerto Rico. Also, Cape Verde, off the coast of western Africa; and Samoa in the South Pacific. Passenger refunds Two US airlines - United and American - are offering refunds to some or all passengers with reservations to any of the countries on the CDC list . President Barack Obama met with his senior health advisers on Tuesday, and urged them to accelerate research into diagnostic tests, vaccines and therapeutic drugs, and work to inform Americans about the Zika virus and ways to protect against infection. But it will likely take years to come up with an effective vaccine. "This is not going to be overnight," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. The World Health Organization predicts the virus will spread to all countries across the Americas except for Canada and Chile.

Two US residents, both of whom recently traveled abroad, have tested positive for the tropical-borne Zika virus. The virus is causing alarm in a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Officials in Virginia and Arkansas confirmed the test results on Tuesday. In both cases officials declined to identify exactly where they may have contracted the disease. However, Virginia Health ... Read More »

WHO declares Guinea free of Ebola virus

Guinea will remain under a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly. The virus killed more than 2,500 people in the West-African country. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Guinea to be free of Ebola, two years after the outbreak started in the country and eventually spread to other West African countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. Forty-two days have passed since the last person confirmed to have Ebola virus disease tested negative for the second time, the UN agency said in a statement on Tuesday. Guinea would remain under a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly so that the virus can be prevented from spreading further. The announcement comes as a huge relief for Guinea, one of the poorest countries in world. The West-African country shot to global prominence as the home to the outbreak's first victim - a two-year old boy. The virus then spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone - and, in isolated or sporadic cases, to another seven countries. "This is the first time that all three countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - have stopped the original chains of transmission that were responsible for starting this devastating outbreak two years ago," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. Because of Ebola's unusually long incubation period, with the time from infection to visible symptoms sometimes lasting weeks, declaring an end to the virus has proven problematic. Liberia is now the only country still awaiting a declared end to the epidemic - although it has reached the WHO's 42-day watermark before, only to register new cases. Without any further positive Ebola tests, Liberia would be declared clear again on January 14, 2016. The virus claimed more than 11,000 lives, from the nearly 29,000 recorded cases, according to WHO figures from December 20. More than 2,500 people died in Guinea alone. 'Best year-end present' "It's the best year-end present that God could give to Guinea, and the best news that Guineans could hope for," Alama Kambou Dore, an Ebola survivor, told the AFP news agency. "From 2013 to 2015, Guineans suffered, they lived and survived, they endured, they were stigmatized, rejected, even humiliated because of this disease, which leapt out of nowhere." The WHO said there had been 10 new small Ebola outbreaks or flares in the region between March and November this year but they appeared to have been due to the re-emergence of a persistent virus from among the survivors. The Ebola virus may persist in the semen of some male survivors for as long as 9-12 months. "The coming months will be absolutely critical," said Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO's special representative for the Ebola response. "This is the period when the countries need to be sure that they are fully prepared to prevent, detect and respond to any new cases." Aylward added that the persistence of the virus in survivors may give rise to new Ebola cases in 2016.

Guinea will remain under a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly. The virus killed more than 2,500 people in the West-African country. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Guinea to be free of Ebola, two years after the outbreak started in the country and eventually spread to other West African countries ... Read More »

New EU rules agreed on cyber security breaches

Member states have agreed that energy, health, finance and transport companies will have to report serious cyber-breaches. The new law follows reports that many security violations are hidden from the public. The legislation agreed on Tuesday sets out security and reporting obligations for large government institutions and companies in cases of severe breaches of cybersecurity. The new law seeks to ensure essential services from traffic control to electricity grid management are robust enough to withstand online attacks. It follows several high profile breaches against high-tech government infrastructure and multi-national companies, and as fears mount that many assaults go unreported. The new proposals, known as the Network and Information Security Directive, threatens severe penalties if organizations don't comply. In July, Germany passed a similar law requiring critical infrastructure institutions to introduce tougher security practices or face fines of up to €100,000 ($108,000.) Increased threat "This agreement is a major step in raising the level of cybersecurity in Europe," the European's Union's digital commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on his blog. "I will not sit back and let these criminals and cyber terrorists attack our businesses, intrude into our private lives and destroy trust in our digital economy and society," he said. Under the measure, internet companies such as Google, Amazon, eBay and Cisco - but not social networks like Facebook - will also be required to report serious incidents to national authorities. Small digital companies will be exempted. Web firms will be subject to less stringent obligations, than, say, airports or oil pipeline operators. The European Commission first proposed the legislation two years ago but the text has faced hold-ups over which industries would be required to report attacks. Not enough? Many security experts believe the agreement has been too watered down and won't give the the EU's new digital security agency ENISA enough powers to manage the threat effectively. European businesses and the overall economy lose hundreds of billions of euros a year to cybercrime and cyberattacks. The European Commission's digital chief, Andrus Ansip, told Reuters the new law would build up consumers' trust in Internet services, especially cross-border services, which Brussels is keen to promote. "The Internet knows no border - a problem in one country can have a knock-on effect in the rest of Europe. This is why we need EU-wide cyber-security solutions. This agreement is an important step in this direction," he said. The bloc's first major cybersecurity law still needs to be formally approved before being turned into national law in the EU's 28 states. Germany targeted In May, Germany revealed that the Bundestag's IT infrastructure had come under attack, leading to the theft of an unknown amount of data. Reports suggest millions of euros is being spent to tighten security on several of Berlin's vital computer systems. Tuesday's announcement didn't include single out cyber security against foreign surveillance , which Brussels has also been planning to tighten.

Member states have agreed that energy, health, finance and transport companies will have to report serious cyber-breaches. The new law follows reports that many security violations are hidden from the public. The legislation agreed on Tuesday sets out security and reporting obligations for large government institutions and companies in cases of severe breaches of cybersecurity. The new law seeks to ... Read More »

British Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey now ‘critically ill’

A British nurse who was successfully treated in January after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone is now "critically ill" due to a resurgence of the virus. Pauline Cafferkey has been receiving treatment in London. It is thought that Cafferkey, 39, could be only the second recorded case of "reactivated" Ebola after American doctor Ian Crozier. Cafferkey was first diagnosed with Ebola in December after returning to the Scottish city of Glasgow from Sierra Leone. "We are sad to announce that Pauline Cafferkey's condition has deteriorated and she is now critically ill. Pauline is being treated for Ebola in the high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free," the London hospital said in a statement. Just two weeks ago, Cafferkey was at Downing Street meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron's wife Samantha, where she received an award for bravery. She reportedly visited a primary school the day before being readmitted to hospital on October 6. Serious relapse Cafferkey spent almost a month in the isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital at the beginning of the year and was treated with an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from Ebola survivors before being discharged. Last week, she fell ill again and was treated in Glasgow before being flown by military aircraft back to the Royal Free Hospital in London. Her sister Toni said that doctors in Glasgow had diagnosed her with a virus on Monday but sent her back home. She called the treatment her sister received "absolutely diabolical" but local health officials have insisted that the decisions taken were "entirely appropriate." Health officials have been monitoring 58 people who have been in close contact with Cafferkey. Forty have had direct contact with her bodily fluids - the main mode of Ebola transmission. Of the 40, 25 are receiving a vaccine and a further 15 have either declined it or were unable to receive it due to existing medical conditions. The deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak since the virus was identified in Central Africa in 1976 has killed over 11,000 people and infected more than 28,000, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.

A British nurse who was successfully treated in January after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone is now “critically ill” due to a resurgence of the virus. Pauline Cafferkey has been receiving treatment in London. It is thought that Cafferkey, 39, could be only the second recorded case of “reactivated” Ebola after American doctor Ian Crozier. Cafferkey was first diagnosed with ... Read More »

South Korea announces three new MERS cases

جنوبی کوریا میں اتوار کے روز میرس وائرس کے مزید تین نئے مریض سامنے آئے ہیں۔ اس کے ساتھ ہی اس ملک میں اس وائرس سے متاثرہ افراد کی تعداد 169 ہو گئی ہے۔ گزشتہ روز سیئول حکام نے بتایا تھا کہ جمعے سے ہفتے تک ملک بھر میں میرس وائرس کا کوئی نیا کیس سامنے نہیں آیا تھا۔ ہفتے کی شب جنوبی کوریا کی وزارت صحت نے اس وائرس کے نتیجے میں ملک میں ہونے والی 25 ویں ہلاکت کی تصدیق کر دی۔ ادھر تھائی لینڈ میں حکام نے بتایا ہے کہ گزشتہ ہفتے وہاں بھی ایک شہری کے اس وائرس کا شکار ہو جانے کی تصدیق ہو گئی۔ اس شخص کے ساتھ رابطے میں آنے والے افراد کی تعداد 175 تھی، تاہم ابھی تک پورے ملک میں اس ایک مریض کے علاوہ میرس کا کوئی دوسرا کیس سامنے نہیں آیا۔

South Korea’s Health Ministry has reported three news cases of MERS. The announcement comes a day after no new cases were reported, the first time in nearly a month. Hopes were high on Saturday after South Korea announced the first day in which no new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus had been recorded in nearly a ... Read More »

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