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

  • Online cannabis dispensaries join in on Black Friday sales

    Economic CTV News
    Online cannabis dispensaries are the latest to cash in on the holiday shopping frenzy, with some offering dramatic markdowns or novelty products as the season known for consumer spending gets underway. Several online cannabis stores are holding Black Friday sales for the first time this year in an effort to stay competitive and draw new customers in what they call an increasingly competitive market. Source
  • Why France hates Black Friday: 'I find it sad'

    Economic CTV News
    Having adopted hamburgers, Halloween and a host of English words, some in France are worried about the latest cultural import from America: the day of rampant consumerism known as Black Friday. Unheard of only a few years ago, the cut-price deals made the television news bulletins Friday as local retailers copied their American counterparts in trying to lure in shoppers ahead of the Christmas season. Source
  • Canadian operating profits top $100B amid financial sector strength

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Statistics Canada says strong performance in the financial sector drove Canadian corporate operating profits to just over $100 billion in the third quarter, up 17.2 per cent from the same period last year. Source
  • WestJet launches new regional air service in Western Canada

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY -- WestJet Airlines Ltd. (TSX:WJA) has introduced a new regional air service in Western Canada operating under a capacity purchase agreement with B.C.-based Pacific Coastal Airlines Ltd. WestJet Link will connect the Alberta communities of Lethbridge, Lloydminster and Medicine Hat and the B.C. Source
  • Aurora formally launches hostile takeover bid for CanniMed Therapeutics

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Aurora Cannabis Inc. formally launched its all-stock hostile takeover bid for CanniMed Therapeutics Friday, on the condition that the medical marijuana producer cancel its own planned acquisition of Newstrike Resources Ltd. The Vancouver-headquartered licensed marijuana company says in a statement it placed a newspaper ad for its offer to acquire all issued and outstanding shares for up to $24, and a takeover bid circular will be mailed to CanniMed's shareholders. Source
  • CEO Suzanne West vows to pursue greener path after oil firm splits with backers

    Economic CTV News
    CALGARY - One of the few female CEOs in the Canadian oilpatch says she has parted ways with her American financial backers and her Calgary company's oil and gas assets have been taken over by a newly-created entity. Source
  • Ontario gaming agency will expand online and mobile betting

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Think you know when U.S. President Donald Trump will be impeached? How about who the next James Bond will be? Or perhaps you have an inside track on the name of the next royal baby? Source
  • Aurora Cannabis launches hostile takeover bid for CanniMed Therapeutics

    Economic CBC News
    Aurora Cannabis Inc. formally launched its all-stock hostile takeover bid for CanniMed Therapeutics Friday, on the condition that the medical marijuana producer cancel its own planned acquisition of Newstrike Resources Ltd. The Vancouver-headquartered licensed marijuana company says in a statement it placed a newspaper ad for its offer, valued at $24 per share, and a takeover bid circular will be mailed to CanniMed's shareholders. Source
  • Aurora takeover bid 'makes no sense,' based on inflated share price: CanniMed

    Economic CBC News
    Aurora Cannabis Inc. formally launched its all-stock hostile takeover bid for CanniMed Therapeutics Friday, on the condition that the medical marijuana producer cancel its own planned acquisition of Newstrike Resources Ltd. The Vancouver-headquartered licensed marijuana company says in a statement it placed a newspaper ad for its offer, valued at $24 per share, and a takeover bid circular will be mailed to CanniMed's shareholders. Source
  • Amazon workers in Germany, Italy stage Black Friday strike

    Economic CTV News
    BERLIN -- Workers at a half dozen Amazon distribution centres in Germany and one in Italy walked off the job Friday, in a protest timed to coincide with "Black Friday" to demand better wages from the American online giant. Source