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July 29, 2016: Zika: What Was Feared May Be Here in Florida

This important update from Debra Goldschmidt. “Health officials in Florida are now investigating four possible non-travel-related cases of Zika virus, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

“Two of the four cases are in Miami-Dade County while the other two are in Broward County. None of the four individuals has traveled to Zika-affected areas. Sexual transmission has not been ruled out.

“’We are looking into other modes of transmission. We’re conducting this investigation as we would other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue (fever),’ Mara Gambineri, communications director for the Florida Department of Health, wrote in an email to CNN.

“Officials are going door-to-door asking residents to provide urine samples and other information in an effort to determine how many people may be infected with the virus. It is possible that someone could unknowingly be infected since 80% of those infected have no symptoms.

“If any of these four cases is determined to be an infection transmitted by local mosquitoes, it would signify the first local mosquito transmission of Zika in the continental United States.”

“Federal health officials have said local transmission should be expected, although they don’t anticipate that it will be widespread.

“’Evidence is mounting to suggest local transmission via mosquitos is going on in South Florida,’ Tom Skinner, senior press officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an email. ‘These cases fit similar transmission patterns (of) mosquito borne diseases like chikungunya that we’ve seen in South Florida in years past.’

“As of July 20, the CDC reported 1,404 cases of the virus in the continental United States and Hawaii. None of those cases is a result of local mosquito transmission. Fifteen of those individuals were infected by sexual transmission, and there is one case of a laboratory-acquired infection.”

Source: CNN

July 28, 2016: In Medical Mystery, Caregiver Gets Zika from Man Who Died

“A Utah man who became the first person in the continental U.S. to die after being infected with the Zika virus passed it to a caregiver, creating a medical mystery about how it spread between them, health officials said Monday.

“The two people did not have sexual contact and the type of mosquito that mainly spreads the virus is not found in the high-altitude area where they live, the Salt Lake County Health Department said.

“The caregiver is a ‘family contact’ and has fully recovered, but officials did not give further details, including how the virus was transmitted.

“’Our knowledge of this virus continues to evolve and our investigation is expected to help us better understand how this individual became infected,’ said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health. ‘Based on what we know so far about this case, there is no evidence that there is any risk of Zika virus transmission among the general public in Utah.’

Source: CBS News

July 26, 2016: Peru Declares Zika Emergency in 11 States

July 26, 2016: Peru Declares Zika Emergency in 11 States

“Peru’s government has declared a health emergency in 11 states in the north and eastern jungle regions due to an expanding outbreak of the Zika virus. The government’s declaration of 90-day emergency facilitates the allocation of almost $6 million to combat the spread of the virus. The health ministry said there are currently 102 confirmed cases of Zika in the country, 34 of which are pregnant women.”

Source: ADDA 24/7

July 25, 2016: Zika Virus Jump in Puerto Rico

“Puerto Rico government officials last Friday reported the biggest weekly rise in Zika cases that the U.S. territory has ever seen.

“Health Secretary Ana Rius said 1,336 new cases were reported in the past week, for a total of 4,437 cases since the mosquito-borne virus was first detected in December.

“She said 76 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities now have Zika cases. A total of 553 pregnant women have Zika, which can cause severe birth defects.

“Fifty-five people have been hospitalized for Zika-related illnesses, including 19 diagnosed with a temporary paralysis known as Guillain-Barre syndrome that has been linked to the virus. One person has died.

“The spike comes a week after U.S. health officials urged Puerto Rico’s government to consider aerial spraying to fight the virus.”

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that up to 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s nearly 3.5 million people could be infected with Zika in an outbreak expected to peak by this summer.”

Source: NBC News

July 24, 2016: First Known Case of Female-To-Male Zika Transmission Announced

“In another startling Zika development, the first case of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus has occurred in New York City, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. Up until now, it was thought that the only likely route of sexual transmission was male-to-female or male-to-male.

“The surprising development prompted the CDC to immediately change its guidance for pregnant women in relation to the virus. Even though no cases of woman-to-woman Zika transmission have yet been reported, the CDC now urges female sexual partners of pregnant women to use barrier methods every time they have sex if they live in or have recently returned from an area with active Zika transmission.

“The CDC added that they will soon update their guidance ‘for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex.’”

Source: CNN

July 23, 2016: Why Zika? Why Now?

“Publishing online July 14 in the journal Science, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers say that despite the discovery of Zika in Uganda in 1947 and the identification of the first confirmed human infection in Nigeria six years later, few cases were reported in humans until 2007. Even then, no one understood the grave risk the disease posed to pregnancies until the recent outbreak in Brazil, which began less than two years ago.

“’The rise of Zika after its long persistence as a disease of apparently little importance highlights how little we truly understand about the global spread of mosquito-borne viruses and other lesser known diseases,’ says Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School who led the study along with Lelia Chaisson, a student in the department. ‘Over the past decades, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus and now Zika have emerged or re-emerged across the globe. Yet why these viruses have expanded their range and others have failed to invade areas potentially ripe for their spread remains a mystery.’

“In their review article, Lessler and his colleagues looked at previously published research on Zika in an attempt to assess the global threat the virus poses. Many of the questions raised thus far by the recent outbreak, which has hit hard in Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico and other parts of the Americas, still need to be answered.

“There are two main theories as to why Zika is currently posing such a threat: that the virus has mutated to become more infectious or pathogenic, or that it previously struck such small populations that it was hard to discern its health effects.”

“When an outbreak in French Polynesia from October 2013 to April 2014 infected an estimated 66 percent of the population, the number of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome jumped dramatically (from three to 42), but the small number of people made it difficult to be sure of the cause and effect. Only later did it become apparent that there may also have been an increase in cases of microcephaly – a condition where a baby’s head and brain can be dangerously small – over the same period. Most people who are infected either show no symptoms or minor ones like rashes.

“But these links became clear once Zika moved to Brazil, with its population of 200 million. It spread rapidly because this was a population that had never before been exposed to this virus, and there was no immunity.

“’Despite knowing about this disease for nearly 70 years, we were completely surprised and rushing to discover the very basic things about it when it invaded the Americas,’ Lessler says. ‘We have been completely unable to stop its spread. That is a problem for how we approach public health. We will always be in this situation when something new comes about or something little-known reemerges unless we do a better job planning for threats more generally instead of always fighting the last battle.’”

Source: John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

July 22, 2016: The CDC Is Looking for 210 More Zika-Infected Men

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collecting semen from hundreds of men in the United States in order to figure out how long the dreaded Zika virus lasts in the bodily fluid.

“The virus can be transmitted sexually, and it’s been known to linger in semen long after a man’s fever, rash and itchy eyes have gone away.

“If a man has the virus in his semen and has sex with a woman who is pregnant or becomes pregnant, the baby could be born with devastating neurological birth defects.

“After about two months of recruiting, some 40 men who’ve had Zika have volunteered to donate their semen. The CDC hopes to bring in about 210 more.

“The men are asked to make about a dozen donations in their homes every other week for six months after their illness, and each time are given a $50 multi-use gift card.

“A courier picks up the donations, which are then delivered to the CDC’s labs in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“’I’m happy to say patients really have been quite receptive about volunteering their specimens,’ said Dr. Paul Mead, the senior epidemiologist at the CDC who is running the study. ‘They seem to understand the importance of the study.’

“There have been 14 cases of sexual transmission of the virus, according to the CDC, although some experts think the actual number is higher.

“The CDC currently recommends that men who’ve had Zika use a condom or abstain from sex for six months after their illness.

“That advice is based on studying the semen of just three men who had Zika, which is why the CDC is doing the larger study.”

Source: CNN

July 21, 2016: South Texas Blood & Tissue Center Begins Testing Donations for Zika Virus

“’As for of its commitment to ensuring the safest blood supply possible, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC) has begun testing blood donations for the Zika virus. STBTC is one of only a handful of blood centers in the nation currently testing for Zika.

“’We believe this is the best way to safeguard the people of South Texas who need blood transfusions,’ said Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer of STBTC. ‘Taking a precautionary approach will optimize patient safety and help maintain blood availability for everyone.’

“Testing for the Zika virus is being done by QualTex Laboratories, which like STBTC is a subsidiary of San Antonio-based nonprofit BioBridge Global, with testing labs here and in Norcross, Georgia. Zika testing is being done in the QualTex labs in Georgia, because of space and capacity requirements for the testing equipment.

“The Zika virus test is a new technology developed by the biotech Roche. It has been approved for clinical trial by the Food and Drug Administration under an investigational new drug (IND) protocol, which means donors must give written consent for their blood to be tested, and results will be used in research.

“’We’re urging anyone who donates to sign the consent form,’ Waltman said. ‘The testing does not change anything about the donation process, except for this one extra signature. And it will go a long way toward keeping everyone in South Texas safer.’”

Source: South Texas Blood & Tissue Center

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