Zika virus a new economic strain for Latin America

BARRANQUILLA, Colombia -- A U.S. warning that pregnant women should avoid Latin American countries where a mosquito-borne virus is multiplying couldn't have come at a worse time for a region that's counting on tourism to give it a boost at a time of economic crises.

See Full Article

The alert issued Friday by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention covers 14 countries and territories in the Americas where the Zika virus has been detected.

It's especially hard for Brazil, where there's been a wave of birth defects that officials there believe is related to Zika at the same time it has been battling its deepest recession in three decades.

Brazilian health officials said Wednesday that the number of cases of microcephaly, a rare brain defect in babies, has risen to 3,893, since authorities began investigating the surge in cases, in October. Fewer than 150 such cases were seen in all of 2014 -- before Zika began to spread across the country.

The outbreak comes as about 1 million people, a third of them foreigners, are expected to flood Rio de Janeiro in the coming month to celebrate Carnival. And hoteliers and others have invested billions of dollars in anticipation of a flood of visitors to the Summer Olympics in Rio in August.

"The Zika virus being in the news could potentially keep away people -- even those who aren't pregnant or have no risk of becoming pregnant," said Otto Nogami, an economist at the Insper business school in Sao Paulo.

Sagging demand from China has undercut Latin America's export-dependent economies at the same time their currencies have been battered by the rising values of dollars and euros. Plunging international prices have hurt many of their mining and oil companies that had been darling of investors the past decade, but cheaper currencies make their resorts a better bargain for visitors.

"We're one of the few sectors that isn't crying over the dollar's surge," said Sandra Howard Taylor, vice minister of tourism in Colombia, as she was heading to Spain to promote the country at an international tourism fair. Last year, Colombia saw a 9 per cent jump in foreign tourists through October.

"We're trying to take the maximum advantage of the situation because we don't know for sure how long it will last," Howard said.

In the Colombian port city of Barranquilla, home to Latin America's largest Carnival outside Brazil, health authorities have been educating residents how to identify symptoms and urging women to put off pregnancies for at least six months until the worst of the epidemic passes. In total, there are more than 13,500 confirmed or suspected cases of the virus in Colombia.

Wendy Ferrer, whose daughter was born two weeks ago, said she considers herself lucky because her poor neighbourhood near Barranquilla has been one of the hardest hit by the virus. "Doctors told me to be extra careful during my pregnancy but thank God everything turned out fine," said Ferrer, waiting at a public hospital for a pediatric checkup.

Ricardo Perez-Cuevas, a health specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, said the potential economic impact isn't limited to tourism.

He said a cost-of-illness study on mosquito-borne viruses following an outbreak in 2005 and 2006 of chikungunya in La Reunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean, found substantially higher medical costs and a toll on companies that experienced higher absenteeism due to sick workers.

Dengue and chikungunya -- two other fever-producing viruses spread by the same mosquito responsible for Zika -- infected more than 3 million people in the region last year, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

Countries across the Western Hemisphere have been stepping fight against mosquitoes in recent years.

Scientists in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands have been experimenting with the release of genetically modified sterile mosquitoes to disrupt breeding. Fogging machines have become a common sight in many Latin American cities.

But the most effective way to combat the disease remains vigilance. Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Castro says he's on the lookout for potential breeding spots -- places where water collects -- when he heads out for his morning walk.

"My radar is always on. If I see a glass, a bottle or anything in the street I throw it in the trash," Castro said. "All of us need to act the same way, because if the mosquito comes to breed it's a terror."



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • $611 million in Sears Canada dividend payments under review by court monitor

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - The court appointed monitor for Sears Canada's insolvency says it is reviewing millions of dollars the company paid in dividends while its pension fund fell short. FTI Consulting Canada Inc. filed a report Monday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that says it will review some transactions, payments and dividends entered into, made or declared by the company before they filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. Source
  • $611M in Sears Canada dividend payments under review by court monitor

    Economic CBC News
    The court appointed monitor for Sears Canada's insolvency says it is reviewing millions of dollars the company paid in dividends while its pension fund fell short. FTI Consulting Canada Inc. filed a report Monday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that says it will review some transactions, payments and dividends entered into, made or declared by the company before they filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. Source
  • Ottawa to create new ombudsperson to keep tabs on corporate behaviour abroad

    Economic CBC News
    The Liberal government is creating an independent watchdog to enforce responsible conduct of Canadian companies operating abroad. International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is announcing the new position at a news conference today. The role of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise will be to work towards resolving conflicts between local communities and Canadian companies operating abroad. Source
  • Bitcoin continues steep slide

    Economic CTV News
    Bitcoin logos are displayed at the Inside Bitcoins conference and trade show, in New York on Monday, April 7, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mark Lennihan) Source
  • Why do you need a pet insurance, right here, right now

    Economic 24news
    Many Canadians would consider their pets as a part of their immediate, granular, family. Although some professionals think it’s not healthy, that’s the way life is in the twenty first century; There is a steep decline in the birth rate globally, with Japan leading the pack, and pets are filling in the void.
  • Canada-U.S. women's group created by Trudeau, Ivanka Trump issues first proposals

    Economic CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- A Canada-U.S. women-in-business group created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ivanka Trump released its first set of recommendations Wednesday, proposing more affordable child care and a new binational procurement initiative. It's the first of four anticipated reports from the Canada-U.S. Source
  • Loblaws in $400M tax fight with CRA over claims it set up bogus offshore bank

    Economic CBC News
    A senior judge warned Loblaws and the federal government this morning that she would not look kindly on any further procedural delays in a $400-million battle the two sides are waging in Tax Court. Loblaws and the government were in a Toronto courtroom in one of the biggest offshore corporate tax-avoidance cases in the country, with authorities alleging the grocery conglomerate set up a bogus foreign bank to avoid tax on hundreds of millions of dollars in investment income. Source
  • Bitcoin slumps below $10K US, half its peak, as regulatory fears intensify

    Economic CBC News
    Bitcoin skidded below $10,000 US on Wednesday, halving in value from its peak price, with investors gripped by fears regulators could clamp down on the volatile cryptocurrency that sky-rocketed last year. The price of bitcoin, the world's biggest and best known cryptocurrency, fell to as low as $9,315 US on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, the lowest since late November 2017 Source
  • Stella McCartney hopes fashion can have a 'Me Too' moment

    Economic CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Designer Stella McCartney is ready to see the Me Too movement sweeping Hollywood make its way to the runways. "It's about time the fashion industry spoke up a little more," said McCartney during an interview Tuesday at a Los Angeles concert event showcasing her autumn collection. Source
  • Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 1.25% despite NAFTA worries

    Economic CBC News
    The Bank of Canada raised its key lending rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.25 per cent Wednesday, the third time it has moved its benchmark rate from once-record lows last summer. The bank's rate has an impact on rates that Canadians get from retail banks for things like mortgages, savings accounts and GICs. Source