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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Will the deadly Zika Virus cause the Brazilian Olympics to be cancelled?


Young Zika victim.. note small disproportionate head...


Julian Bray Aviation Security expert writes:  Before booking that long-haul exotic holiday or even Brazil Olympics tickets, the news that all aircraft visiting Zika infected countries are to be sprayed, might cause you to rethink your future plans. It brings back dim distant memories, of flying on an East African Airways Comet 4C jetliner, in 1966, sitting on the runway at Kenyas' Nairobi Airport, and a man with a backpack mechanical pump spray walking through the cabin, with us still tightly strapped into our  now damp and smelly aircraft seats....

Perhaps it is just coincidence but the AIDS virus in the early 80's was traced back to Vervet monkeys in Uganda, East Africa.

But when Uganda was a British Protectorate, back in 1949, Zika was first discovered, infecting colonies of Ugandan rhesus  monkeys.. ...

Bringing it right up to date Global health officials have said that the Zika virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, is rapidly spreading in the Americas and could infect up to 4 million people.

But there is no known vaccine or available cure and little is really known about the transmission of the disease. They say a race is on to develop a Zika vaccine, but its with both arms tied behind backs as the virus seems to transmute almost daily.  In our view, the Brazil Olympics due to be held later this year should be cancelled or at least deferred, until a region wide all clear can be established.

Consider how do people become infected? Current thinking is the virus is transmitted to people through the bite and sting transmission of an infected female Aedes mosquitoes, the same varient of mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever. 

Health Authorities admit the super strong Aedes mosquitoes are found in all countries in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile, and that the ZIKA virus will likely reach all countries and territories of the region, where Aedes mosquitoes are found. 

Everyone including Olympics and athletics Organisations should clearly understand there is no treatment or vaccine available for Zika infection. Companies and scientists are currently developing  a safe and effective vaccine for Zika, but clearly not expected to be ready for years.

When you start at the very beginning of a research cycle it is impossible to give an accurate idea of the development timescale.  Some health authorities claim there is no evidence that Zika causes death, but then some cases have been reported ,with more serious complications in patients with pre-existing medical conditions, and as such a death has become the outcome. so the question of a killer disease is still in the balance.

The virus has certainly been linked to microcephaly, a terrible heart breaking condition in new born babies causing abnormally small heads and brains that simply cannot develop properly.

To make matters worse Zika has also has been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body's own immune system, then attacks part of the nervous system. Scientists are not confirming it, but are still studying whether there is a causal link between Zika and these two disorders.

But how does this  Zika disease relate to microcephaly?  Much remains undiscovered about Zika, but some international sports associations would have their intending Brazil Athletes believe this is a containable condition and even question whether the virus actually causes microcephaly?

Third world sanitation, some open sewerage ditches and infected water supplies, the real prospect that Olympics Villages 'clean water' supplies will not be fully completed by the start of the Olympics, as there are already contractual disputes holding up construction.

Brazil due to host the Olympics in August, this year is frantically investigating the potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small head size that can result in developmental problems.

Researchers have already identified evidence of Zika in some 17 cases, either in the baby or in the mother, but have not conclusively confirmed that Zika can cause microcephaly, it is only a matter of time before the outcome is known.
 
It is also uncertain whether in pregnant women, the virus crosses the placenta and causes microcephaly. Brazilian research suggests the greatest microcephaly risk appears to be associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy.

So objectively how do you recognise the symptoms of Zika infection? The Zika virus disease typically shows a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain and fatigue, this lasts for 2 to 7 days.  

The good news (if you can call it that)  is that only twenty percent of those experiencing the initial flu like symptoms days never develop the full Zika set of conditions, which are  similar to those of dengue or chikungunya, transmitted by mosquito bite and fluid injection.

There has been much talk of control systems;  efforts to control the virus populating major on eliminating the mosquito breeding grounds - essentially any area of standing water or cool dark places.

The Authorities also suggest taking detailed precautions against mosquito bites, using insect repellent and mosquito nets at night and covering up bare skin.  U.S. health officials have gone a step further and advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries where they may be exposed to Zika.

Health officials report  Zika outbreaks  in at least some thirty three  countries in the Americas. Olympics host Brazil has been the nation most affected. 

Other nations, territories and popular long-haul holiday destinations  include Barbados, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Curaçao, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Maldives, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Vanuatu, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


But how did this all happen what is the history?  Zika virus is contracted in tropical regions, usually synonymous with large mosquito populations. Outbreaks of the Zika virus disease have been reported in Africa, the Americas, Southern Asia and the Western Pacific.

The virus was first identified in Uganda, East Africa in 1947 in rhesus monkeys then in the general population in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania, again according to the WHO.

Is the Zika virus transmitted through sex? Two cases of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described, but authorities still seek  more evidence to confirm whether sexual contact is a means of Zika transmission.

There is also a suggestion that saliva can become infected, so the simple act of kissing ( and LOTS of that goes on during Carnival....)  Zika can be transmitted through blood, but this is an infrequent transmission mechanism. There is no evidence the virus can be transmitted to babies through breast milk.

If that isn't bad enough the WHO maintain that  because no major Zika outbreaks were recorded prior to 2007, little is currently known about onging complications caused by infection. An outbreak of Zika from 2013-2014 in French Polynesia, doctors reported an unusual increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Health authorities in Brazil have also reported an increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome. Clearly the Brazil Olympics Association and International Sports Associations need to seriously consider if the risk is worth  it for their competitors, there is also now  the added layer of possible legal action, if the advice given is wrong. In the UK it's called the Corporate Manslaughter Act, if found guilty, the officials will be jailed......

Sources: CNS, WHO, BBC, CBS, CBC, Reuters, UN, Red Cross,
 


JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Aviation Expert, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Expert, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 (ALL CODECS) e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 iPhone 0743 530 3145 www.aviationcomment.com Contrib. Account #104764 53 FEED: http://feeds.feedburner.com/BraysDuckhouseBlog
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