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Colombia reports first two Zika-linked microcephaly cases

Colombian health authorities on Thursday reported the country's first two cases of microcephaly associated with Zika, the day after US scientists concluded the virus can cause babies to be born with abnormally small heads. Colombia has the second largest number of Zika cases in Latin America after Brazil, putting it on the leading edge of a mosquito-borne epidemic that has spread as far north as the United States. “Colombia confirmed the two first cases of microcephaly associated with Zika,” Colombia's public health ministry said in a statement.

Russia says registers first case of person infected with Zika virus

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia's consumer safety watchdog said on Monday the country had registered its first case of a person infected with the Zika virus, an unnamed female who had been on holiday in the Dominican Republic. Rospotrebnadzor, the watchdog, said in a statement that the condition of the person was satisfactory and that her family members had tested negative for the virus. (Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe)

Afghanistan turns disused NATO camp into drug treatment base

By Mirwais Harooni KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan officials have opened a new drug treatment center in an abandoned NATO military base in Kabul, in the latest attempt to stamp out the country's massive problem of drug abuse. Afghanistan is one of the world's biggest sources of opium, producing around 3,300 tonnes last year, despite a drop of 48 percent in output. Camp Phoenix, a former training camp on the edges of Kabul set up by the U.S. army in 2003, will take in around 1,000 homeless drug addicts who will receive food, medical attention and treatment, said Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz.

The human cost of cuts to Spain’s prized health system

Madrid (AFP) – “Either we eat or I take my pills,” Maximiliano Diego recalled a patient confessing after stopping treatment because cuts in Spain's public health system forced him to pay for medication from his own pocket. “He cried with fear at the closeness of death… but above all, he cried with shame at having to lie to his doctor,” Diego wrote on the site of an association defending public health, of which he is a member. This is but one example of the human consequences of Spain's financial crisis and subsequent austerity measures that have gnawed away at what the World Health Organization ranked the world's seventh best healthcare system in 2000 — an issue of concern ahead of December 20 elections.

World health chief says US, Saudi discussing MERS vaccine

By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States and Saudi Arabia may prepare a vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) to try and head off the next outbreak of the disease, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Margaret Chan said Saudi Health Minister Khaled al-Falih was discussing this with U.S. public health officials. “They communicated and looked at collaboration and to see whether we can, in terms of preparedness, get some vaccines ready in advance of another MERS outbreak,” Chan told reporters.

New Embassies Open Door to Cuba’s Health Care Triumphs

As President Obama proclaimed diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba for the first time in 50 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) was simultaneously celebrating Cuba Wednesday as the first country ever to eliminate mother-to-child transmissions of HIV/AIDS and congenital syphilis. Dr. Roberto Morales, minister of public health and the first Cuban minister to come to the United States since 1952, visited Washington, D.C., to discuss the historic success. While the monumental public health achievement was the intended focus of his news conference, Obama’s news was critical to the process.

Six more measles cases reported in California after Disneyland outbreak

By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Six more cases of measles have been confirmed in California following an outbreak at Disneyland that began in December, public health officials said on Monday, raising to 74 the total number of people in the state who have been infected. Previously, 68 people in California had been confirmed to have the measles, along with 14 others elsewhere: five in Arizona, three in Utah, two in Washington state, one each in Oregon, Colorado and Nevada, and one in Mexico. The latest tally includes 73 cases documented by the California Department of Public Health and one additional patient reported by the Ventura County Health Care Agency.

Doctors group urges measles shots as Disneyland outbreak spreads

By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The leading U.S. pediatrician group on Friday urged parents, schools and communities to vaccinate children against measles in the face of an outbreak that began at Disneyland in California in December and has spread to more than 80 people in seven states and Mexico. The American Academy of Pediatrics said all children should get the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella between 12 and 15 months of age and again between 4 and 6 years old. “A family vacation to an amusement park – or a trip to the grocery store, a football game or school – should not result in children becoming sickened by an almost 100 percent preventable disease,” Errol Alden, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. The California Department of Public Health has reported 68 confirmed measles cases among state residents since December, most linked to an initial exposure at Disneyland or its adjacent Disney California Adventure Park.