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January 14, 2017: Two New Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes Found In Florida

Two new tropical disease-transmitting mosquitoes have been found in the state of Florida for the first time, according to researchers from University of Florida.

Entomologist Nathan Burkett-Cadena did not expect to find the Aedeomyia squamipennis and Culex panocossa species in Homestead as well as in Florida City on a research trip back in October. It is a sign that Florida is now becoming more conducive to tropical mosquitoes, especially as they are found near the mainland.

Both species are believed to transmit viruses to humans and lay their eggs on weeds that float in canals and drainage waters, warned Burkett-Cadena in a Miami Herald report.

Mosquito-Weary South Florida

While native to Central and South America, the mosquitoes likely arrived via plants and spread across South Florida canals and ponds. They are expected to grow in numbers soon.

“This would speak to some broader environmental changes that have caused Florida to be more accessible and hospitable to tropical mosquitoes,” the scientist said, pointing to global warming as the likely culprit and saying nobody had the species’ arrival “on their radar.”

Apart from climate change, increased tourism and global trade have probably made Florida a good destination for the exotic species, Burkett-Cadena added.

It’s a particularly bad time for the discovery in South Florida, as a Zika virus outbreak hit Wynwood and Miami Beach over the summer and extending into fall. The outbreak, with over 1,200 local and travel cases documented statewide, is caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

While dry, cool weather paired with aggressive control measures has helped contain the mosquito spread, the disease is expected to return by springtime.

Severe birth defects in different places have mounted a full-blown Zika crisis. The virus takes the form of microcephaly in babies and kids, a defect characterized by smaller-than-normal heads.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued numerous health and travel recommendations for people who are most prone to the virus and its dangers, particularly pregnant women. As of Nov. 18, the World Health Organization has lifted the Zika virus’ global health emergency status.

While no vaccine exists for the virus yet, researchers have identified seven key proteins within it that may have been instrumental in the extent of the outbreak’s damage.

The two new species also carry viruses and can easily conquer densely populated areas.

There are a number of differences between them, though: the Aedeomyia mosquito feeds mainly on birds, which transmit the West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, and other viruses, while the Culex panocossa is a confirmed vector for the Venezuelan equine encephalitis, which poses a deadly threat to kids and the elderly.

The latter also likely carries the local Everglades virus, which is typically detected in native Culex species. The virus is so far contained since the mosquitoes do not survive well outside the Everglades, but researchers are worried about the mosquito’s tropical kin starting to spread it.

The virus in its mild form can lead to flu-like symptoms and joint aches but can progress to encephalitis and occasionally trigger comas that have not so far led to mortalities.

With the recent discovery, the number of invasive mosquitoes found in Florida over the past decade has reached nine.

Source: Tech Times

January 13, 2017: Miami Doctors Publish Study of First Locally-Acquired Zika Transmission

Following the recent Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade County, a multidisciplinary team of physicians has published a case study describing in detail the nation’s first locally-transmitted case of Zika

The findings of the case study, titled “Cutaneous Eruption in a U.S. Woman with Locally Acquired Zika Virus Infection,” largely center on the skin rash associated with the then-23-year-old pregnant patient’s diagnosis and provide a glimpse of the skin manifestations of the Zika virus. The report may have implications for future Zika screening, diagnoses and linkage to care throughout the United States and abroad.

“Dermatologists and clinicians had an idea of what the Zika rash looked like, but it wasn’t until the patient presented here that we were able to get an up-close and personal look and photograph the skin,” said Lucy Chen, M.D., a Jackson Health System dermatology resident and lead author of the case study. “Any doctor now has a visual sense of the rash to properly diagnose and refer patients to the appropriate specialists.”

The young woman whose case is detailed in the report was 23-weeks pregnant in July 2016 and had experienced three days of low-grade fever, a widespread rash and sore throat. The rash consisted of small pink bumps on the patient’s chest, back of her arms, legs, palms and soles, said Chen, who saw the patient upon admission. Her symptoms later advanced to muscle and joint pain. The patient tested positive for Zika although neither she nor her partner had traveled outside of the U.S. The case was confirmed by the Miami-Dade County Department of Health as the first non-travel-associated case of Zika in the U.S.

The virus was present in her system for two weeks in urine samples and six weeks in blood samples. Tests, thus far, on the patient’s infant show normal development, head size and intracranial anatomy, with no calcifications. The infant, who was born in October 2016, did not test positive for Zika.

Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus, is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. As Miami-Dade County has the highest number of locally-transmitted and travel-related Zika cases in the U.S., University of Miami physicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital are uniquely positioned to document cases of Zika in adults and children and contribute to the growing knowledge of the virus, which has heavily impacted countries throughout Latin American, the Caribbean and parts of the U.S.

Christine Curry, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the care of Zika-infected pregnant women at the University of Miami and Jackson Health Systems, said the patient is “an example of how the virus can circulate in the body of a pregnant woman for more than the typical one to two weeks.” While there isn’t enough definitive evidence, Curry, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UM Miller School of Medicine, said some tests suggest that the virus may have a tendency to linger longer in pregnant women.

In addition to Chen and Curry, the case study was co-authored by George W. Elgart, M.D., professor and Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Dermatology and Jackson Health System dermatology resident Farheen Hafeez, M.D.

Chen said people who experience a rash often do not seek care from a provider until it has cleared up. However, as Miami-Dade County is ground zero for the U.S. Zika outbreak, physicians and health workers have been on heightened alert for patients presenting with symptoms associated with Zika.

UM and Jackson have taken a multidisciplinary approach to combating Zika transmissions, caring for patients and studying cases.

Chen and a team in the UM Department of Dermatology took a biopsy of the skin and noted seeing neutrophil cells, which Chen said are not commonly present with viral rashes but help fight infections.

“This is an interesting finding but we would need to study additional cases to determine whether these cells help distinguish Zika rashes from other viral rashes,” said Chen.

Source: Science Daily

January 12, 2017: Child Born in Austin Has Zika Virus

Health officials say a child born in Travis County with microcephaly has the Zika virus

Austin health officials say a child born in Travis County with microcephaly has the Zika virus.

Austin Public Health Chief of Staff Bob Corona said the child was born last September in an Austin hospital, and tests confirmed the Zika virus this week.

Corona said the mother was infected in Central America, but it’s unclear if the mother was an Austin-area resident visiting Central America or a Central American visiting Austin.

State health officials say 294 people reported Zika-related illnesses as of Dec. 30, but only two of which were acquired in Texas. Twenty cases involved pregnant women, with two infants infected before birth. The first child born in Texas with Zika-related microcephaly, an abnormally small head, was last year in Harris County. The Zika virus was confirmed July 13.

Source: Time Warner Cable News Austin

January 11, 2017: Zika Update: Where Does the United States Stand?

To cap off a year that saw the Zika virus spread throughout the United States, The Centers For Disease Control made a grand, much-needed gesture. The CDC, using money granted by Congress earlier this year, has pledged close to $200 million to help fight the virus throughout the U.S. and its territories.

The money—which actually totals to $184 million—comes at a time where as many as 75 nations and territories have shown evidence of Zika infections. Approximately one year ago, that number was as small as 23.

As both the number of worldwide infections—and the measures intended to prevent them—continues to spread, the question remains: where do we stand with Zika?

Globally, only one new nation has reported a Zika infection since September, but that doesn’t mean the burden of the disease has lessened in countries that were already struggling. Even though the World Health Organization officially ended the status of the virus— which can cause severe birth defects in the brains of children born to infected mothers—as a global health emergency back in November, many countries are in it for the long haul when it comes to dealing with Zika.

In Brazil, for example, there have been 1,749 cases of babies born with defects in their nervous system, a problem that is estimated to cost the country around >$4 million per child

In the United States, these efforts may be working, as there has only been one new Zika case reported in the past three weeks. Despite this, research is continuing to reveal new ways that the virus can endanger pregnancies, making the task of stopping its spread just as important now as it was five months ago.

The virus first appeared in the U.S. in July, when Zika began to spread through infected mosquitos in Miami. Since then, infections have been reported in all 48 continental U.S. states.

However, almost all of these cases—there are 4,618 in total—have occurred through travel, with only approximately 200 infections in Florida and only a handful of infections in Texas spreading locally. Still, Congress is responding aggressively, as the CDC’s funding was only a small part of a $1.1 billion spending bill signed into law by president Obama back in September. The money is meant to serve a number of purposes, including vaccine research, mosquito control and studies on the virus’ effects on babies.

Source: Paste Magazine

January 10, 2017: Zika Cases Slow, but DSHS Still Urges Caution

There’s good news and bad news on the Zika virus front in Texas.

“The good news is, it’s been cold enough in most of the state that mosquito activity has dropped,” said DSHS Director of Media Relations Chris Van Deusen.

The bad news? “That’s not consistently the case in the Valley so there continues to be a risk of Zika spreading there,” he said.

So far, Texas has reported nearly 300 cases of Zika, with the vast majority related to travel to areas with ongoing Zika transmission. DSHS continues to receive weekly reports of new travel cases and has identified six cases transmitted by mosquitoes in Texas, all in Brownsville. Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, continue to be Zika hotspots.

“That continues to be a concern for us, especially as people from the US travel there when it’s cold here,” Van Deusen said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women who live in or regularly travel to Brownsville be tested for Zika, once in their first trimester and again in the second. They can do this at their regular pre-natal checkups or through their county health clinics.

Despite the advent of colder weather, DSHS still recommends Texans take precautions against mosquito bites by using an effective mosquito repellant and wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts. And in addition to dumping any standing water in flower pots and the like, Van Deusen said it’s also a good idea to scrub containers where water collects to eliminate mosquito eggs that can lie dormant through the winter.

While the Zika virus is transmitted primarily through mosquito bites, it may also spread by sexual contact. The four most common symptoms are fever, itchy rash, joint pain and eye redness. While symptoms are usually minor, Zika can also cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, in some women who become infected during pregnancy.

DSHS recommends pregnant women follow CDC advice to avoid traveling to locations with sustained, local Zika transmission, including all areas of Mexico. Pregnant women should also use condoms or avoid sexual contact with partners who have traveled to those areas.

To learn more and get updates about the Zika virus, visit texaszika.org or follow @TexasDSHS on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Source: The Connection

January 9, 2017: British Actor Tony Gardner Reveals He Caught Zika While Filming Death in Paradise

Tony Gardner felt “pretty rough” after he was bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease in Guadeloupe

British actor Tony Gardner has revealed that he caught the Zika virus while filming the BBC crime series Death in Paradise in the Caribbean.

Known for his roles in Last Tango in Halifax, Fresh Meat and The Thick of It, the 52-year-old was taken ill after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease in Guadeloupe.

Speaking on comedian Sean Hughes’ podcast Under the Radar, Gardner said he felt “pretty rough” for a week after being bitten. He added that he and other crew members could make up “quite a lot” of the more than 250 Brits who are known to have caught the virus.

“There are now about 200 Brits who have had Zika,” Gardner said, “But quite a lot of them, possibly, come from the group of people that go out to Guadeloupe for six months a year to film."

“In retrospect I should have been more aggressive with the repellant,” he said.

He added: “About a couple of hours before I flew out I got a rash. And then for a week I wasn’t particularly well with joint pain and swelling… I just felt pretty rough actually for about a week.”

Gardner, who is a father and a qualified doctor, said that the virus was “not a problem for me because I’ve finished my family. It’s quite dangerous for people getting pregnant or men starting families.”

The production company behind Death in Paradise, Red Planet Pictures, said in a statement: “Information was provided on avoiding all mosquito-borne viruses and insect repellent was available on set at all times. Despite these precautions, a small number of the team were unwell after having been bitten.”

An outbreak of Zika in Brazil in 2015 was linked to instances of the birth defect microcephaly and women have been warned not to try and conceive for at least eight weeks after visiting areas affected by the virus.

Source: Radiotimes

January 6, 2017: Zika Case Confirmed in Willacy County

Health officials confirmed a case of Zika virus in Willacy County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

The case is reported to be travel related. Zika virus cases have now been confirmed in all four counties of the Rio Grande Valley.

Zika is primarily spread through mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes; however, most people infected don’t show symptoms or have mild symptoms. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head doesn’t fully develop.

Early cases of the virus in the Rio Grande Valley were confirmed in September and classified as travel related. In late November, health officials said a Zika case in Cameron County was transmitted locally by a mosquito. This led to voluntary urine tests of people living in the same area as the 43-year-old woman in the case. More cases of Zika were confirmed through these tests.

As of Tuesday, the state health department listed 16 cases of Zika in Cameron County, five cases in Hidalgo County, one in Starr County and one in Willacy County. Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said there may be plenty of others infected, but only 20 percent of people with the virus are symptomatic.

So far, the only Zika cases in the state that were locally transmitted were found in Cameron County.

As of last week, Cameron County health officials haven’t found solid proof that infected mosquitoes are in the area. None of the thousands of mosquitoes trapped throughout Brownsville have tested positive for the virus; however, testing continues.

Dr. Castillo said they are relying on health experts’ educated guess and what is known about Zika to make determinations on each case. He pointed out it’s impossible to catch every single mosquito.

Source: KRGV.com

January 5, 2017: 1 New Case of Local Zika Transmission In Miami Area

Florida health officials say they have one new case of a locally-transmitted Zika infection in Miami-Dade County.

Health officials said in a statement Wednesday that, despite the new case, the state doesn’t have any areas of active Zika transmission.

The statement says the Florida Department of Health is investigating to find out where the person was exposed to the virus.

Starting in late July, state health officials had identified four zones in the Miami area where the virus was spreading through local mosquitoes – the first such transmissions in the continental U.S.

But earlier this month state health officials declared all the areas were clear of continuing infection.

Researchers say some birth defects caused by Zika infections may not be apparent at birth but develop months later.

Source: NBC 2 Miami

January 4, 2017: El Nino On a Warming Planet May Have Sparked the Zika Epidemic, Scientists Report

In a world characterized by rising temperatures, deforestation and other human influences on the environment, the spread of infectious disease is a hot topic. Many recent studies suggest that environmental changes can affect the transmission of everything from malaria to the Zika virus — and it’s increasingly important to understand these links, scientists say.

This week, a new study has provided new evidence that environmental changes can increase the threat of disease. It concludes that unusually warm temperatures caused by 2015’s severe El Nino event — likely compounded by ongoing climate change — may have aided in the rapid spread of Zika virus in South America that year. And while there are many complex factors at play in the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, the study may help scientists better prepare for the kinds of future effects we might see in our warming world.

“The start of the mission was simple — trying to address where the risk will be, where is it going to move next, where could Zika happen on the planet on a global scale,” said Cyril Caminade, a research fellow at the University of Liverpool and the new study’s lead author. To that end, the authors designed a study that would help them determine how climatic changes have impacted the mosquito-borne transmission of Zika.

There are two main species of mosquito known to carry the Zika virus — Aedes aegypti, or the yellow fever mosquito, which is widespread in the tropics; and Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito, which lives in both tropical and temperate regions of the world. Scientists also believe Zika can be sexually transmitted, but the new study focused only on mosquito transmission.

For the study, the researchers collected published information on the distribution of these two mosquito species and how temperature variations can affect them. Studies suggest, for instance, that up to a certain point, rising temperatures can cause mosquitoes to bite more frequently. The researchers also collected global historical climate data from the past few decades and used all the information to build a model of Zika transmission worldwide.

The model produced an unusually high disease transmission potential in the tropics for the year 2015, including in Colombia and Brazil, the countries hit hardest by Zika. Similar results occurred between 1997 and 1998, one of the only other times on record to experience such a brutal El Nino event.

“[O]ur model indicates that the 2015 El Nino event, superimposed on the long-term global warming trend, has had an important amplification effect,” the researchers note in the paper.

A new report, published Thursday as a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, provides some of the best evidence yet that climate change already has a hand in our worst weather.

The model also helped the researchers identify the ideal seasonal climate conditions for Zika transmission around the world. In South America, for instance, the model suggests that the potential for transmission should peak in the winter and spring.

In the southeastern U.S., on the other hand, summer is ideal. In fact, the model suggests this region has a high potential for disease transmission during this time, due partly to the high temperatures and partly to the fact that both mosquito species are found there.

That said, reports of Zika have been limited in the U.S. so far — and this speaks to the complexity of vector-borne disease transmission, Caminade said. Climate can certainly play a significant role in setting up the right conditions for an outbreak, but epidemics also depend on many other factors, including population density, access to healthcare and the use of pesticides and other anti-mosquito interventions in any given location. Some of these factors — which were not accounted for in the new study — can probably explain why there hasn’t been much Zika transmission in the U.S. so far.

Caminade also pointed out that after a population has been exposed to a mosquito-borne disease like Zika, a phenomenon called “herd immunity” often occurs — this happens when so many people have already been exposed, and developed an immunity, that there aren’t enough new people left to infect to continue the epidemic. This is the probably part of the reason we didn’t see Zika epidemics in other tropical parts of the world in 2015, despite the new study’s results. And some experts have suggested that herd immunity will likely cause the current situation in South America to burn itself out within a few more years.

But Caminade cautions that there’s still the potential for Zika outbreaks in other parts of the world where the conditions are right, including the United States and even southern Europe. The result would likely be milder than what’s been experienced in South America in the past year, but there’s “still risk,” he said.

According to Caminade, one of the study’s major takeaway points is that extreme climate conditions can lead to all kinds of unusual events — droughts, floods and wildfires are only a few examples — and disease outbreak is just one more potential disaster scientists should be looking out for when these conditions occur.

And such events may only be exacerbated by future climate change. Some studies have suggested that the kinds of “monster” El Nino events seen in 1997 and 2015 may be more likely in a warmer world, Caminade pointed out. But he added that scientists wishing to make more precise predictions about the future spread of disease must take a wide variety of factors into account — climate is just one of them.

“I won’t overplay the role of climate for the future,” he said. “It’s still a disease, and there are still parameters which are going to be very important.”

Source: The Times-Picayune

January 3, 2017: Cameron County Teen Infected in Sixth Zika Virus Case

A sixth case of the Zika virus was confirmed in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday.

Cameron County health authorities released the information Thursday stating a 14-year-old teenager was infected.

In total, 17 cases have been reported in Cameron County. Eleven of those are travel-related, while the remaining six were locally-acquired.

Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said the teenager lives near East Price Road and South Padre Highway. The area is about a mile and a half away from the five locally-acquired Zika cases confirmed in the past weeks.

Dr. Castillo said the teen’s case is not connected to the other group. He said the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services is testing those closest to the teen to make sure they aren’t infected.

“Our investigation so far – for the 14-year-old – is that no other people in his household have had symptoms. But we’re testing them,” he said.

Dr. Castillo said that unlike the first confirmed locally-acquired Zika cases, they won’t conduct door-to-door testing.

“We’re not going to be testing asymptomatic people outside of the household. So we’re not doing what we had done on the initial responses. Again, all of those tests were negative. We did find additional four cases, but only after they became symptomatic,” he said.

The physician said the city of Brownsville sprayed for mosquitoes on Wednesday and Thursday. He said he expects to see few cases per month. “I think local cases. I think we’re going to continue to have quite a bit of travel,” he said.

Dr. Castillo said people should see their doctor if they develop symptoms including fever, rash and joint pain. He advised Brownsville residents to wear long sleeves and spray themselves with repellent.

“Any place that the conditions are right and the weather is right for these mosquitoes, and you have travelers, you have the recipe for Zika transmission,” he said.

The health officials said this case doesn’t mean Zika is wide spread in Cameron County.

Source: KRGV 5 News

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