KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Researchers: ‘There’s No Silver Bullet’ To Eliminating Mosquitoes, But Progress Can Be Made

As the Zika virus spreads, scientists are looking for ways to wipe out the species that carry life-threatening diseases, but the solution isn't a simple one. In other news, experts find it hard to offer advice to pregnant women as they themselves receive ever-changing information about the virus; 12 groups are racing to find a vaccine; and workers have few legal avenues to pursue if they want to avoid being sent to Zika-afflicted areas for their jobs.

Los Angeles Times: Fighting Mosquitoes With Mosquitoes: Biological Weapons Target Zika Virus
No other animal has done so much harm to the human race. Each year, [mosquitoes] infect millions of people with malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and other viruses and parasites, killing at least 600,000, the vast majority of them children in Africa. The World Bank estimates that they cost afflicted African countries 1.3% of gross domestic product each year. Which raises the question: Why not try to wipe mosquitoes off the planet? (Dixon, 2/8)

Los Angeles Times: Zika Virus Raises More Questions Than Answers For Pregnant Women
As public health officials and epidemiologists race to understand the Zika virus, doctors in the United States are struggling to counsel patients and ease their fears amid a flood of constantly changing information. Experts say pregnant women in the United States who haven't traveled to countries with outbreaks have no risk of being infected. But with a rapid stream of new information about how the illness is transmitted, new worries keep emerging among pregnant women. "You can't reassure them," said Dr. Kathleen Berkowitz, an obstetrician who practices in Los Angeles and Orange counties. (Karlamangla, 2/9)

Reuters: Race To Fast-Track Zika Trials As 12 Groups Seek Vaccine
At least 12 groups are now working to develop a Zika vaccine and health authorities said on Monday they were working to ensure development proceeded as rapidly as possible. The World Health Organization said it was important to establish speedy regulatory pathways, although all the vaccines remained in early-stage development and licensed products would take "a few years" to reach the market. (2/8)

Reuters: Lawyers See Limited Legal Options For Workers Sent In Zika's Way
Employees of U.S. companies seeking to avoid exposure to the Zika virus likely have few legal avenues to either refuse travel to affected areas or sue if they actually become sick from the virus. But it may be a different story if such workers subsequently give birth to Zika-infected babies. ... U.S. and world health authorities are not currently warning against all travel to affected areas, as they did with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Adherence to the recommendations of the U.S. Department of State or the World Health Organization would shield companies to a large degree from claims they acted recklessly in sending employees into Zika-affected areas, lawyers who typically represent employers say. (Pierson, 2/8)

Meanwhile a family in Kansas tells its story of hope in the midst of fear —

The Kansas City Star: Kansas Family Offers Hope To Parents Of Children With Microcephaly
To many, having a child with a birth defect called microcephaly might seem to be the end of the world. And so it did, initially, for a family near Wichita, Kan., that experienced it — twice. But for Gwen and Scott Hartley, their two daughters, born with abnormally small heads and brains, are a source of joy. Microcephaly recently has been linked with the virus Zika, which is causing alarm among health officials. Thousands of parents have been heartbroken in Brazil, where the mosquito-borne virus has been most active. It has the potential to spread to parts of the United States. (Campbell, 2/7)

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